Pragmatism and the Political Economy of Cultural Evolution 0807821578, 9780807821572

The rise of corporate capitalism was a cultural revolution as well as an economic event, according to James Livingston.

276 117 11MB

English Pages 424 [416] Year 1994

Report DMCA / Copyright


Table of contents :
Part 1. The Political Economy of Consumer Culture, 1850-1940
1 Making Use of Marx
2 Consumer Goods and Continental Industrialization, 1850-1900
3 Between Consumers and Corporations
4 Corporate Capitalism and Consumer Culture, 1890-1940
Part 2. Naturalism, Pragmatism, and the Reconstruction of Subjectivity, 1890-1930
5 Ghosts in the Narrative Machine
6 The Subject of Naturalism
7 Transition Questions: William James at the Origin of Our Own Time
8 Money Questions and Moral Equivalents in the Future Tense
9 The Romantic Acquiescence: Pragmatism and the Young Intellectuals
10 The Past and the Presence of the Postmodern in Pragmatism
Recommend Papers

Pragmatism and the Political Economy of Cultural Evolution
 0807821578, 9780807821572

  • 0 0 0
  • Like this paper and download? You can publish your own PDF file online for free in a few minutes! Sign Up
File loading please wait...
Citation preview




Alan Trachtenberg, editor

Editorial Advisory Board R O B E R T C. A L L E N





J E F F R E Y C. S T E W A R T






© 1994 The University of North Carolina Press A ll rights reserved Manufactured in the United States of America Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publkation Data Livingston, James, 19 4 9 Pragmatism and the political economy of cultural revolution, 18 50 -19 4 0 / James Livingston. p.

cm.— (Cultural studies of the United States)

Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-8078-2157-8 (cloth : alk. paper)

1. United States— Civilization— 19th century. 19 18 .

2. United States— Civilization— 18 6 5 -

3. United States— Civilization— 19 18 -19 4 5 .

conditions— 18 6 5 -19 18 . 6. Pragmatism.

4. United States— Economic

5. United States— Economic conditions— 19 18 -19 4 5 .

7. Consumer behavior— United States— History.

Social aspects— United States— History. I. Title.

8. Industry—

9. Capitalism— United States— History. II. Series.


973— dczo




The paper in this book meets the guidelines for permanence and durability of the Committee on Production Guidelines for Book Longevity of the Council on Library Resources.

98 97 96 95 94

5 4 3 * 1

For my parents




Foreword by Alan Trachtenberg, xi Preface, xv Acknowledgments, xxi PART i

The Political Economy of Consumer Culture, 18 50 -19 4 0 , 1 Chapter 1 . Making Use of Marx, 3 Marx's Model and Us Echoes, 3 Social Origins of Economic Growth, 13 Composition of Capital, Decomposition of Capitalism, 2 1 Chapter 2. Consumer Goods and Continental Industrialization, 18 50 -19 0 0 , 24 Households into Markets, 24 The Politics of Continental Industrialization, 3 1 Production and Consumption as Political Culture, 4 1 Mass Consumption and Marginalist Economics, 49 Chapter 3. Between Consumers and Corporations, 57 Economists and Cultural Critics, 57 Advent of the "Age of Surplus," 66 The Priority of Class and the Production of Irony, 77 Chapter 4. Corporate Capitalism and Consumer Culture, 189 0 -19 40 ,84 From Cultural to Economic History, 84 The Human Element, 98 The Limits of Consumer Culture, 109


Naturalism, Pragmatism, and the Reconstruction of Subjectivity, 18 9 0 -19 3 0 ,119 Chapter 5. Ghosts in the Narrative Machine, 12 3 The Politics of Historiography, 12 3 The Price of Historiographical Progress, 12 7 Chapter 6. The Subject of Naturalism, 132 Language, Form, and Style in Character Building, 132 Sister Carrie as Romance, 137 The Political Economy of the Self, 146 The Politics of the Poetry of the Self, 149 The Uses of Historicism, 194 Chapter 7. Transition Questions: William James at the Origin of Our Own Time, 158 Speeding with the Train to Buffalo, 158 Toward the Limits of Relations of Production, 172 Chapter 8. Money Questions and Moral Equivalents in the Future Tense, 18 1 Conflict from Consensus on a Credit Economy, 18 1 John Dewey's Sympathy for the Devil, 187 Thoughts and Things in Emersonian Perspective, 199 Pragmatism Accredited, 208 Modem Subjectivity and Moral Phibsophy, 214 Chapter 9. The Romantic Acquiescence: Pragmatism and the Young Intellectuals, 225 Young Intellectuals, Then and Now, 225 Mumford, Bergson, Melville, 2 } i Technics and Personality, 240 Poiesis and Politics, 247 Chapter 10 . The Past and the Presence of the Postmodern in Pragmatism, 256 Davidson, Dewey, and the Death of the Subject, 256 Does Consciousness Exist1,263



Pragmatism as a Postrepublican Frame of Acceptance, 273 Roily, Relativism, and the Problem of History, 279 Transitive Subjects, 289 Notes, 295 Index, 389




By its argument and its method, Pragmatism and the Political Economy of Cultural Revolution, 1850-1940, puts you to work as few books in Am eri­ can cultural history do. It's not that the argument is especially difficult or the method obscure. The book simply challenges us by its defiance of cus­ tomary boundaries— the expected lines of demarcation among genres of history writing and among disciplines of thought and scholarship. "Inter­ disciplinary" gives one sort of name to Jim Livingston's way of drawing from political economy, social history, the history of thought and of formal philosophy, and literary criticism and theory in pursuit of his goal, which is to refurbish entirely our understanding of the relation between economic and cultural change in late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century Am erica. But "interdisciplinary" falls short of defining a usable category for this book. The term sounds too formulaic by now, too programmatic. Questions— raised by the book itself— regarding the kind of book this is refer us back to the experience of reading and emphasize the book's unex­ pected turns from one sort of discourse (a panorama of economic change) to another (an account of changing definitions of money) and yet another (the emergence of pragmatism as formal philosophy and political-ethical program). The reader has to work at discovering what more conventional books of history provide without any effort on our part: a reliable sense of where the author stands; in what "fields" his or her feet are planted; what the book is paraphrasably about. This unusually strenuous work of reading tells much of what Livingston's book is all about. Jim Livingston practices here what can best be called a version of philo­ sophical history. A particular philosophy, pragmatism, informs a large part of the book, explaining how William James and John Dewey engaged in dia­ logue with thinkers like Hegel and Kant and Schelling and Fichte. But the book's mode is not that of the history of thought as such. Nor is it a work of philosophy in itself. It is clearly, unmistakably, history, but history under­ stood as an interpretive and critical account of meanings. It is philosophical history by virtue of its possessing both an argument about thought, the


ties between thinking and living, and a theoretical method, the method of dialectic. The book offers to teach readers not just how to think anew about the monumental structural changes in the relation between thought and life in the new society that corporate capitalism had produced by early in this century, but how to think contextually, historically, about the relation between social change and human possibility. It offers to teach us how to think about the way things go together in the process of human and social development. The book's originality takes measure of its ambition to revise some funda­ mental premises about the "new America," especially about the possibilities for personal growth and social transformation that accompany a moder­ nity more typically described by critics and historians as grim ly repressive and lim iting of freedom. At the core of the book is an argument that takes a historical commonplace, which holds that between 1850 and 1940 the United States underwent a revolutionary change from proprietary to corpo­ rate capitalism, and transvalues the usual lament this change evokes among intellectuals. Against the conventional wisdom, Livingston argues that this transition enlarged rather than diminished the realm of human freedom. He argues that corporate capitalism entails the social death of the older capital­ ist order and that it does so by shrinking the realm of necessity in personal life, the realm governed by work, wage labor, and fixed class identities. Ex­ pressed like this, the point seems paradoxical in the extreme, for has not corporatism seemed the antithesis of freedom, the undoing of the older re­ publican notion of a nation of self-governing, virtuous citizens? Livingston invites such a response, just as he invites controversy. Paradox runs through the book, a key figure and example of Livingston's dialectical method. Cor­ porate capitalism, so the argument goes, overturns older categories of work, money, and personhood and produces an abundance of time free of labor (as important to the argument as the production of consumable goods), thereby opening the prospect of life lived outside and beyond the strictures and imperatives of the marketplace. The new forms of capital wrought by the corporation produce, in short, the material and social conditions for what Livingston (citing ). G. A . Pocock) calls "the ethos of historicist socialism ." Livingston casts his book as a provocation toward that goal, the realization of the "socialist" potential within corporate capitalism. It is an argument, then, about transition, about the signs of fundamental change that Livings­ ton detects, with the help of William James, John Dewey, and Theodore Dreiser, in the shifting winds of the turn-of-the-century era. The book does not shy away from controversy, and it frequently adopts a polemical tone. Although Livingston implies that among the older cate­



gories, shaken by change so deep and fundamental it passes unnoticed by many, are the designations of right and left, his argument proceeds from the left. A summary account may make it appear that he wants to cele­ brate the corporate order, or at least exonerate it from the crimes against freedom with which it has been charged. Hardly. Livingston holds, in a dialectical perspective familiar to readers of Karl Marx, that corporatism gives birth to capacities and possibilities that will be its undoing, and that intellectuals might better serve the interests of the future by focusing on these— by helping society identify opportunities for new growth and re­ sponsible change. The "antimodernist irony" by which intellectuals (Lewis Mumford is a major example here) have defined their stance toward the present Livingston deplores as romantic evasion. Respectful of the idea of freedom the ironists cherish and protect, he mistrusts the practical effects of a rhetoric of lament. Provocative, polemical, scolding, prophetic, Livingston's book proposes a brilliant new interpretation of the origins and character of modernity in the United States. Sut generis, as are many significant works of scholarship, it confronts a monumental theme and rises to the occasion with great eru­ dition and much aplomb. However you take to the details of its argument, the book sweeps you up in its stunning analyses and surprising tangents. No small part of its challenge to the reader is the role in it of ethical ques­ tions such as what responsibility shares with freedom, the nature of choice, and the social grounds of personhood. An integrated work of criticism and history, Pragmatism and the Political Economy of Cultural Revolution raises a host of issues in the process of teaching its lessons, not least of which is its own example of cultural studies as history with an eye on the future. Alan Trachtenberg




When I began thinking about how to write this book, my goal was to start a conversation between fields that stopped talking to each other around twenty years ago, when the "new economic history" and the "new social history" partitioned the discipline and encouraged new settlements in their respective territories. 1 wanted to show that each field required the other to complete its arguments about what is meaningful and significant in the his­ torical record; for example, I wanted to show that consumer culture becomes intelligible only when we study it in terms of economic as well as social history. But I found that to keep this conversation going, I had to write as if the cultural moments and intellectual innovations that interested me (con­ sumer culture, marginalist economics, pragmatism, and literary naturalism) were constituent elements in the transition from proprietary to corporate capitalism. In other words, I had to write as if economic change were one dimension of a larger social-cultural transformation or intellectual revo­ lution; to put it in a way that William James would appreciate, I had to write as if thoughts were things, and vice versa. The study of pragmatism accordingly became something more than a chapter or case study in this book, and began to function as the regulative principle— the method and the sensibility— of my inquiry. James and Dewey, I realized, had treated the emergence of "the trusts" and their correlate in "pacific cosmopolitan industrialism" as the warrant for intellectual innovation. So I asked, can we also treat these events, which we now summarize by reference to the rise of corporate capitalism, as some­ thing other than evidence of deviation or devolution from a more demo­ cratic past? If so, can we treat the transition from proprietary to corporate capitalism as an open question— as a transition that is still subject to our theories and practices, still revealing its consequences in the form of political possibilities? W ell, of course we can. But in doing so, we violate the narrative proto­ col now enforced by the "new social history" and its disciplinary armature, through which the rise of corporate capitalism appears as tragedy, as a be-


trayai of the "democratic promise" specific to subaltern social movements (especially but not only populism). There is no way to calculate the price we pay for our violations of that narrative protocol; even so, we can be sure that the valorization of subaltern studies has increased the professional costs, and the political risks, of investing our intellectual resources in narratives not sanctioned by social history. In this sense, social history has finally become a "barrier to entry" in the marketplace of ideas where historians circulate their stories. It would be an insignificant barrier if pragmatism itself did not originate as a narrative of the transition from proprietary to corporate capitalism. But it so happens that in the narrative form of pragmatism, the decline of proprietary capitalism loses its pathos, and the triumph of cor­ porate capitalism appears as the first act of an unfinished comedy, not the residue of tragedy. To tell the story of this transition from the standpoint afforded by pragmatism is, then, to depart from the standpoint of the "new social history." That is what I have tried to do in what follows: to tell a fam iliar story from the standpoint afforded by pragmatism. I do not ignore the empirical content of social history and its cognates; to do so would be to announce that what follows is idiocy, not apostasy. But 1do take issue with the narra­ tive form of social history— I do question the moral of the story now told about the transition from proprietary to corporate capitalism. If my story sounds unfamiliar, that is why. In Part i , "The Political Economy of Consumer Culture, 18 50 -19 4 0 ," I begin by reconstructing Karl Marx's two-sector model of accumulation, through which he showed how industrialization entailed a relative restric­ tion of the consumer goods sector and an absolute expansion of the capital goods sector. The point of this exercise in chapter 1 is neither to invoke the authority of M arx nor to rehabilitate the labor theory of value, but to see what we can learn about consumer goods as dimensions of economic growth and cultural development. I claim that M arx's two-sector model has long since entered the mainstream of economic theory; that it can be used to periodize the relation between consumption and investment because it is, among other things, a way of grasping economic events as effects of social movements and political conflicts; and, most significant, that the cir­ culation of commodities in the nineteenth century is not the equivalent of twentieth-century consumer culture. I have banished the technical details and difficulties, so that readers who want to skip over chapter 1 w ill feel guilty. G uilty or not, in chapter 2 they will find an application of the two-sector model to the economic history and theory of the nineteenth century. I claim



that the Civil War, or rather the Republican Party, did effect a revolutionary reversal between the two sectors. But I also demonstrate that the changing relation between consumption and investment in the late nineteenth cen­ tury was a contingent product of class struggle which became a central issue in American political discourse, and that, for all its odd abstractions— there are plenty of them— marginalist economic theory should be understood as an immediate dividend of that discourse. In chapter 3 , 1begin by proposing that marginalism is the political econ­ omy of consumer culture because it treats mass consumption and corporate enterprise as equally significant and functionally related phenomena. I go on to claim that the young (and old) intellectuals of the early twentieth century believed they were witness to the advent of an "age of surplus" under the aegis of "the trusts," and refused accordingly to be bound by the categories of necessity, production, and class. I argue that they understood this new epoch as a threat to modern subjectivity, but conducted a search for alternatives to the modem subject in good faith, mainly by specifying the dimensions of the "social self" emerging from the intellectual currents and new social movements (e.g., feminism, socialism, progressivism, trade unionism) that were remaking political discourse. So I also argue that the subsequent search for such alternatives— the search we call the postmodern .condition— has been blocked by the irony inscribed in the critique of con­ sumer culture and its intellectual antecedents. I conclude Part 1 by showing, in chapter 4, that twentieth-century U .S. economic history can be read as the record of a passage beyond relations of production, thus as a reason to accredit the notion of an "age of surplus" and its corollaries. In Part 2, "Naturalism, Pragmatism, and the Reconstruction of Subjec­ tivity, 18 9 0 -19 30 ," 1 begin, in chapter 5, by explaining the departure of social-cultural history from intellectual history in political terms, as if each camp represents a different stance toward the liberal tradition. Then I ask why, for all their differences, neither camp can account for the cultural change and intellectual innovation of the period 189 0 -19 20 . I propose to do so through a study of political-economic change as it was defined by the men and women who came of age around the turn of the century. In chapter 6, 1reintroduce the issues of subjectivity broached in chapter 3. I claim that the exemplary naturalist novel Sister Carrie should be read as a formal parody of realism— that is, as a romance of which we cannot ask, "given these characters, what will happen?" Carrie begins to sound like a character in a novel only at the end of this novel, I demonstrate, and her development as, or into, such a "character" is a consequence of her desires and disguises. So I ask, what can we do with this shortage of realistic char­ Preface


acters, or, what does it mean to acknowledge that naturalism is not realism? I answer by suggesting that, when reworked by Theodore Dreiser and the other naturalists, the romance form accommodated the "social se lf" speci­ fied by philosophers, jurists, and social scientists in search of an alternative to the modern subject. In chapter 7 , 1address Kenneth Burke's question— "Is not Whitman the poetic replica of Jam es?"— as if it were more and less than rhetorical. In doing so, I try to suggest that the new genealogy of pragmatism, in which James appears as mere middleman between the more profound Peirce and the more democratic Dewey, needs rewriting. I also suggest that to look beyond the realm of necessity for the source of values, as James did in des­ ignating Whitman a "contemporary prophet," was to look into, not away from, the ongoing transformation of capitalism, and that this transforma­ tion is comparable to the transition from feudalism to capitalism. In chapter 8 , 1show why it matters that pragmatists take the commodity form for granted, or rather take it seriously as a condition of their philo­ sophical reconstruction. I claim that Dewey's appreciation of "speculation" is central to his intellectual experimentation, and show what it means for James to make "persistent use of financial metaphors," as Lewis Mumford claimed he did. Then I enlist the philosophers and poets of the early nineteenth century in explicating the James who speaks in Pragmatism. I conclude this chapter with a brief history of the moral personality in the Atlantic intellectual tradition, as a way of introducing the antinomies of modern subjectivity. In chapter 9 , 1analyze the reception, or rather the repression, of pragma­ tism, by exploring the young intellectuals' response to James and Dewey from 19 17 to 1934. Here my focus and foil is Mumford, who, by defining pragmatism as positivism or utilitarianism, could honestly hope to reinstate a romantic model of modern subjectivity. The point of this chapter is not to show how mistaken Mumford was, but to explain the sources of his opposi­ tion to pragmatism, and to suggest that insofar as his map of misreading still shapes the reception of pragmatism on the American Left, it still mutilates the historical consciousness of the American Left. In chapter 10 , 1 return to James via Dewey and Donald Davidson. Here I demonstrate that the essays in radical empiricism of 1904-5 compose a design for a postmodern subjectivity and that, so conceived, pragmatism represents a postrepublican "lesson of reception" through which the quar­ rel of the self with history can be ended. In doing so, I claim that Richard Rorty's unsatisfactory treatment of the problem of relativism derives from the privilege of radical discontinuity in his historical conspectus, and that



relativism is a real problem which can be solved from within the pragmatist paradigm as James sketched it. I conclude by suggesting that only from the standpoint of his proposed departure from the tradition of Western phi­ losophy— the departure announced in the essays on radical empiricism— does this tradition become intelligible, and remain useful, as a continuum of conflicts over the core issues of subjectivity. In What Is Philosophy?, José Ortega y Gasset insisted that the poetry of the self should be treated as evidence of broader change: "But suppose that this idea of subjectivity which is the root of modernity should be super­ seded, suppose it should be invalidated in whole or in part by another idea, deeper and firmer. This would mean that a new climate, a new era, was beginning." I treat these remarks as working hypotheses in what follows. I claim that the idea of modern subjectivity was superseded by the forms of selfhood pragmatism authorized; that pragmatism functions as a narra­ tive of the transition from proprietary to corporate capitalism— a "fram e of acceptance," as Kenneth Burke would say— through which new shapes of solidarity and new species of the moral personality became recognizable; and that consumer culture resides in the same transition. In sum, I claim that the new climate, the new era which we have learned to call postmod­ ern, and which we may yet learn to call postcapitalist, was beginning in the first decade of the twentieth century, when the "trust question" became our transition question.




This is not the book I set out to write. For that I am grateful to so many people that I am almost embarrassed to mention everyone who has tried to change my mind. M y principal debts are to the people who had to live with this book when it was still a "project"— when they knew I wasn't making sense, but listened anyway. They gave me a kind of "talking cure." They are Patricia A . Rossi, my wife; Vincent ). Livingston and Julia Rossi Livingston, our children; Andrew J. Livingston, my brother; Leland Meredith Livings­ ton, my sister-in-law; and three old friends, Mike Fennell, Raymond J. Michalowski, and Keith Haynes. Colleagues from UNC-Charlotte, where I used to teach, have remained helpful critics in absentia. Steven Usselman is the youngest but the most demanding of them— he functions as my ideal reader from the "hard side" of our discipline. Robert Rieke, Julia Blackwelder, and Lyman Johnson have always insisted that we should loosen up and have more fun; they w ill be glad to know that in Part 2 , 1have tried. I have written or rewritten all the chapters in this book since arriving at Rutgers in 1988. Several colleagues in the Department of History— Paul Clemens, William Connell, Gerald Grob, Traian Stoianovich, Donald Kelley, and Philip Pauly— have given me helpful comments on chapters I have shared with them. Two other colleagues, Thomas P. Slaughter and T. J. Jackson Lears, have derided to treat these chapters as contributions to our unfinished conversation on the future of American politics and culture. They are not persuaded by what I have to say; but they want to keep talking. They have taught me a great deal about the value of intellectual work and collegial exchange; each in his own way, they have also taught me how to rebuild our bridges and make our ideas clear. So, too, have the graduate students in history at Rutgers. The arguments of Part 2 started out as questions for discussion in a reading seminar I taught in the spring of 1990. Since then, conversations with Richard Moser, Eliza Reilly, Van Gosse, Randy Stearns, Trudi Abel, Joe Broderick, Regina Gramer, David Engerman, Arlene Kriv, Robert Mensel, Andrea Volpe, Joseph P. Moore III, J. Allen Douglas, and


Andrew Schroeder have been especially important in shaping my approach. I am particularly grateful to Eliza Reilly for long-distance discussions that revealed the limits and the possibilities of the arguments that follow. Colleagues and friends from the Department of English at Rutgers have been quite generous as well. Richard Poirier gave me a close reading of the chapters on pragmatism which encouraged me to believe that they were worth revising in light of his searching questions and criticisms. I have not always agreed with what he writes about Emerson and James; but I have learned more from him than from anyone else who has written on the intel­ lectual tradition we call pragmatism. Marc Manganaro and Alec Marsh gave me very different readings of the same chapters, but they, too, encouraged me to revise, often by sharing their ideas about modernist poetry with me. A ll along, Bruce Robbins has made me think about my purpose in writ­ ing, m ainly by providing an unpretentious example of intellectual integrity and political commitment, but also by remaining skeptical about my most basic assumptions. I am deeply indebted to him and to our mutual friend John M cClure for the many conversations in which my arguments with and about the American Left took shape. The reading and writing that went into the book were made possible by two fellowships, one from the National Museum of American History, where my sponsor was Gary Kulik, the other from Rutgers University. M y thanks to these institutions for making resources available when I needed them most. The reading and writing that went into Part i were made nec­ essary by Victoria de Grazia, who asked me in 1989 to present a paper at a conference she was organizing on consumer cultures; three years later, as Director of the Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis, she made me finish what I had started. 1 hope these chapters reflect her uncanny ability to get stimulating results from unlikely sources. Outside agitators have also had a hand in this book. For strong readings of chapters from Part 2, my thanks to Patricia A . Rossi, L. Moody Simms, Jr., Barbara Sicherman, Michael T. Gilmore, Michelle Bogart, Robert Sklar, Ann Fabian, Philip Scranton, Edward Hartman, and Martin J. Sklar. For equally strong readings of chapters from Pan 1 , my thanks to Steve Rosswurm, Keith Haynes, William Burr, Leon Fink, Gerald Berk; to the mem­ bers of the Triangle Economic History Workshop convened in April 1990, especially Richard Sylla, Robert Gallman, Michael Bernstein, and Robert Korstad; and to my colleagues at the Rutgers Center for Historical Analy­ sis, especially Leonardo Paggi, Ellen Furlough, and Diane Neumeier, who helped me to clarify the argument of chapter 3. Since 19 72 , 1 have tried to live up to the standards of intellectual discixxii


pline and honesty that Martin ]. Sklar and Carl P. Parrini set (or students at Northern Illinois University. But I have learned to treat the education they provided as a gift, as a debt I cannot repay except by trying to follow their example. Since 1980, Harold D. Woodman and Stanley N. Katz have taken an active interest in my work and career. It is safe to say, in fact, that with­ out their tim ely efforts, I would not have a career in academe. At long last, I can thank them properly by saying they made this second book possible. Alan Trachtenberg made it probable by signing it for his series, "Cultural Studies of the United States," and leading me to believe that he fully ex­ pected a completed manuscript. M y thanks to him for his scholarship, his advice, his patience, and his sense of humor. Barbara Hanrahan, the editorin-chief of UNC Press, reshaped and improved the manuscript at an early stage of its development; Pamela Upton expertly guided the manuscript through the production process; and D. Teddy Diggs patiently repaired m y prose. They have made working with UNC Press a pleasure. For good advice about (and permission to quote from) the collections in their care, my thanks to Leslie Morris of Harvard's Houghton Library and to Nancy Shawcross of the Van Pelt Library at the University of Pennsyl­ vania. And for providing images from the Lewis Mumford collection at Monmouth College, my thanks to Vincent di Mattio. Being a parent teaches you that you live forward but understand back­ ward, as Kierkegaard claimed. You have to see the world from the standpoint of your children, but you can't become a child. From that weird perspective, you begin to see your own parents in new ways. At any rate that is what has happened to me. I now see that my parents gave me a love of words, ideas, and arguments. So I give them back a book that came to me as a gift— a book that got written after my son asked me what would happen if I did not w rite it, and I had to say, "W ell, nothing, I guess."





185O-I94O But to the degree that large industry develops, the creation of real wealth comes to depend less on labour time and on the amount of labour em ployed than on the power o f the agencies set in motion during labour time, whose "powerful effectiveness" is itself all out o f proportion to the direct labour time spent on their production, but depends rather on the general state o f science and on the progress o f technology, or the application o f this science to production. . . . A s soon as labour in the direct form has ceased to be the great w ell-spring o f wealth, labour-time ceases and must cease to be its measure, and hence exchange value o f use value.— Karl M arx, 18 58 U nder m odem conditions o f production, no measurable relation can be found between w ork contributed and goods consumed. . . . A whole moral fabric is thus rent and tom , w ith the most alarming and far-reaching consequences.— Stuart Chase, 19 3 4 M eanw hile w e have lost our form er proprietor and must go back to find him . — A dolf A . Berle, Jr ., 19 58



Marx's Model and Its Echoes In a famous essay of 1930, ). M. Keynes chided his Anglo-American audi­ ence for its obsession with the "economic problem," which he defined as the cultural corollaries of the "struggle for subsistence." He was afraid that the great slump would reinstate the social significance of that struggle, re­ furbish the reputation of economists, and so rehabilitate the "pseudo-moral principles" that had promoted the accumulation of capital. He concluded with this admonition: "But, chiefly, do not let us overestimate the impor­ tance of the economic problem, or sacrifice to its supposed necessities other matters of greater and more permanent significance." The audience for this book is composed, I would guess, of those who share Keynes's fear of reiterated sacrifice to the "supposed necessities" of economic growth and who tend, therefore, to designate economists not as he had hoped— "as humble, competent people, on a level with dentists"— but as m y friend Alec Marsh does, as the "court poets" of modern capi­ talism. Why, then, must we begin by attending the court society in which economists still celebrate the rule of dead matter and blind "market forces" ?1 A s I see it, we do not have much of a choice. If we do not read and in­ terpret the deadly poetry of political economy, we cannot make sense of American culture; for Americans have typically derived political meanings and moral significance from the distribution of property and the production of value through work. I do not mean that Americans have agreed on how to do so, or on what the results should be. Instead I mean that until the mid-twentieth century, most Americans found the condition of salvation as well as self-determination under the sign of necessary or productive labor. To understand the culture they created is to understand how and why they could derive so much from what we would define as economic activities. Perhaps it is more to the point to say that we cannot appreciate the intel3

lectual innovations known as pragmatism and literary naturalism unless we attend to the cultural meaning and significance of economic activities— and vice versa. James and Dewey and Dreiser never tried to rise above the realm of necessity in the name of higher truths; they never treated the commodity form as the enemy of the spirit or, alternatively, as the solvent of things in themselves. Instead they tried to discover durable truths in and through what seem to be the most transient market phenomena. In this sense, they were responding to Emerson's complaint of 1842: "W e have yet had no genius in America, with tyrannous eye, which knew the value of our incomparable materials, and saw, in the barbarism and materialism of the times, another carnival of the same gods whose picture he so much admires in Homer; then in the Middle Age; then in Calvinism ."2 Like Whitman, the first writer to fit Emerson's specification of genius, James and Dewey and Dreiser did see this carnival in the barbarism and materialism of their times. They admired the "credit economy" of the late nineteenth century for its capacity to increase the stock of those fundamen­ tal truths that are contingent on the shape of the future. They also grasped the "trust movement" as the source of new truths about genuine selfhood. In other words, they treated the effects of nineteenth-century economic development as the causes of intellectual revolution— as a common fund of cultural capital from which they drew in speculating on the future of subjectivity. To understand their achievement is, then, to try on Emerson's tyrannous eye, to see what we can learn from the barbarism and materialism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. That is what I have tried to do in part 1 of this book. But I do not want to claim that part 1 is a reinterpretation of U.S. economic history as such; for it is a contribution to the current debates on the periodization of consumer culture rather than a survey of economic growth and development from the mid-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth. In short, it is more cul­ tural than economic history. One of my principal purposes in restricting the scope of my inquiry is to demonstrate that the antagonism between saving or investment on the one hand and spending or consumption on the other is quite real under circumstances specific to the regime of capital accumu­ lation. In my view, it follows that those nineteenth-century observers who designated the restriction of consumption as the necessary condition of eco­ nomic growth and social progress (of "development"), or who treated the deferment of immediate gratification as the cause and effect of a specifically modern subject, were not merely inflating the commonplaces of middleclass m orality in the age of anality. It also follows that if twentieth-century economists and policymakers do not understand development in the same


Making Use of M arx

or sim ilar terms— lor example, il they designate consumer expenditures, not investment out ol saving, as the fulcrum ol economic growth— then their departure from the nineteenth-century consensus requires a historical explanation that asks whether their outlook is consistent with, and perhaps ingredient in, the pattern ol economic change since the nineteenth century. In effect, then, I am asking when, how, and why consumption became the fulcrum ol economic growth, in theory and practice. M y procedure at the outset is to outline a model ol accumulation drawn from the work ol Marx and his latter-day interpreters, including "left Keynesians" such as Michal Kalecki and Anatol Murad but relying more immediately on Martin Sklar, Sydney Coontz, and Michio Morishima.3 The model is, however, less eclectic than this odd list ol theorists might suggest; lor, as we shall see, modem theories ol growth begin with the rediscovery (or reinvention) ol M arx's two-sector reproduction schemes. Lineages and legacies aside, I adopt a Marxian model ol accumulation lor three reasons. First, it reveals the tension between saving and spending without abstracting from the social relations in which goods production and income distribution are embedded; that is, it allows us to examine economic phenomena with­ out losing sight ol the larger social or cultural context in which spending and saving are valorized. In this sense, the model produces more interest­ ing results and significant facts than a theory ol capitalist growth which is predicated on the notion ol "concentration." For a model ol accumulation acknowledges such concentration but does not elevate it to a regulative prin­ ciple ol analysis, and thereby does not entail a periodization ol capitalism which is dominated, w illy-nilly, by the question ol scale.4 Second, a Marxian model ol accumulation produces more significant {acts than a theory ol growth (or ol "modernization") which is obsessed with change in the distribution ol resources (including human resources) be­ tween agriculture and industry— mainly because a model ol accumulation distinguishes between the production ol consumer goods and capital goods within industry as such.5 It thereby acknowledges the crucial limits on con­ sumer expenditure and choice presumably represented by taster growth in the labor lorce and output ol the capital goods industries. A s W. Arthur Lewis points out: "At any level ol income, people can consume only the quantity ol consumer goods which exists. Since their incomes derive from producing consumer goods and investment [i.e., capital] goods, and since they can buy only the consumer goods, it lollows that they must save a part o l their income equal to the value ol the investment goods which have been produced. . . . What they are thus lorced to save may not, however, correspond to what they would like to save at that level ol incom e."4 For Making Use o f M arx


the same reason, a Marxian model produces more interesting results than a theory of growth which, because it makes no distinction between con­ sumer and investment demand— and indeed designates change in consumer preferences as the cause of growth— simply ignores the difference between consumption and investment which not only characterizes modern indus­ trial development but, in the form of a theoretical problem (what is the source and function of profit?), shapes the discipline of economics from the mid-nineteenth to the late twentieth century.7 Third, a Marxian model of accumulation has broader scope and utility than general equilibrium models that do not treat business cycles or eco­ nomic crises as inevitable episodes in the course of growth under capitalism. For the point of the model of accumulation is precisely to relate secular and cyclical phenomena, to show how balanced growth is possible but not necessary; thus it does not force us to abandon the search for "covering laws" even while it allows us to acknowledge the fundamental contingency of capitalist accumulation.* M arx developed his model of accumulation at two levels of abstraction, in volumes i and 2 of Capital. In the first volume, he establishes the in­ dispensability of the "system of constants" available through the theory of value (part 1) ; sketches the historical stages or conditions— primitive accumulation, Manufacture, Modem Industry— that accompany and en­ force capitalist growth (parts 3 -5 , 8); and introduces the "general law of accumulation" as both cause and effect of capitalist growth (part 7). In the second volume, the periodization of volume 1 is assumed; hence the analy­ sis proceeds according to a sectoral disaggregation by "value composition" and economic function which is consistent with the previous statement and background of the general law of accumulation.9 Now the law of accumulation as Marx stated it was "change in the techni­ cal composition of capital by which the variable constituent becomes always smaller and smaller as compared with the constant" (1:685). By "the tech­ nical composition of capital," he meant the technologically determined re­ lation between a given mass of means of production and the labor force nec­ essary to operate it. The law of accumulation thus posits a relatively faster growth of the mass of means of production vis-à-vis the number of em­ ployees (or work hours) required to mobilize it for purposes of commodity production. At this level, the law is the necessary corollary of growth in labor productivity. "Whether condition or consequence, the growing extent of the means of production, as compared with the labour-power incorpo­ rated with them, is an expression of the growing productiveness of labour. The increase of the latter appears, therefore, in the diminution of the mass


Making Use of M arx

of labour in proportion to the mass of means of production moved by it, or in the diminution of the subjective factor of the labour process as compared with the objective factor" ( i : 682). There is, according to M arx, a "strict correlation" between the technical composition and the value composition of capital— by the latter he meant the relation between the exchange value of past labor-time embodied in existing means of production ("constant capital") and the exchange value of current labor-time embodied in wage goods available for consumption by the employed labor force ("variable capital"). This strict correlation he termed the "organic composition of capital." So the law of accumulation also holds that the value relation between past and present labor-time w ill be increasingly skewed toward the former, that the value of means of pro­ duction and intermediate goods (such as raw materials) will increase faster than the value of those commodities which compose the wage bill. In short, accumulation means the growth of "constant capital" both absolutely and relatively to "variable capital," whether accumulation itself is conceived in terms of use value (the technical composition) or exchange value (the value composition). The linkage between these forms of value is the labor pro­ cess, or rather the productivity of labor as it is enforced and increased by the general law of accumulation. For growth in the productivity of labor implies the reduction in the exchange value (though not the use value) of wage goods, because a smaller amount of labor-time is necessary to produce a given quantity of wage goods; this in turn implies the availability of rela­ tively more labor-time for purposes of accumulation, not consumption, that is, for production and reproduction of means of production which cannot be consumed as wage goods. Before we turn to the formalization of the model in volume 2 of Capital, we should note two implications of the general law of accumulation and then, in the spirit of M arx's own inquiry, ask whether it is merely an article of faith that we might admire but also ignore. First, at the level of the firm, the rise in the organic composition of capital implies the displacement of labor, unless the firm's addition of plant or equipment to its existing capital stock requires an increase in the number of employees paid at prevailing wages (or in the number of hours worked by the existing labor force)— un­ less, that is, the expected increase in gross output which originally induced investment in additional plant and equipment is large enough to warrant additions to the payroll. But at the level of the economy as a whole, the rise in the organic composition of capital covered by the law of accumulation implies an increase in the demand for labor or an increase in employment as such. For as machines replace the skills and exertions of men or women Making Use of M arx


in the central shops and the factories, the labor force producing those ma­ chines and their various inputs (raw materials, etc.) will necessarily grow. Here is how M arx explained it in Theories of Surplus Value : "As the constant capital grows, so also does the proportionate quantity of the total labour force which is engaged in its reproduction. . . . While for the individual capital the fall in the variable part of the capital as compared with the con­ stant part takes the form of a reduction in the capital expended in wages, for the total capital— in its reproduction— this necessarily takes the form that a relatively greater part of the total labour force employed is engaged in the reproduction of means of production than is engaged in the production of products themselves" (1:2 19 ). Second, as the passage just cited would suggest, the general law of accu­ mulation implies, or rather entails, the "priority of Department I"— the priority, that is, of the capital goods sector in the growth pattern of capital­ ism. "That which distinguishes in this case capitalist society," as M arx an­ nounced in defending his reproduction schemes, is simply that it "employs more of its available annual labor in the production of means of production (and thus of constant capital) which are not convertible into revenue in the form of wages or surplus-value, but can serve only as capital" (2 :50 9 -10 ). The rise in the organic composition of capital means, in other words, that the rates of labor force growth and output in the capital goods sector w ill exceed those in the consumer goods sector (Department II), with all that implies for the distribution of income between profits and wages or investment and consumption. This asymmetry in the growth rates of Departments I and II ultim ately makes the expansion of Department II the derivative of expan­ sion in Department I. At this stage of development, the source of increasing demand for labor in Department II— the source of expanded operation of means of production in the consumer goods sector— becomes the increasing demand for wage goods represented by the more rapid growth of the labor force in Department 1, that is, it becomes expanded production of means of production. But the "priority of Department I" should not be exaggerated. The stage at which the expansion of Department II becomes a function of expansion of Department 1has all the characteristics of industrialization as Walt Rostow, A . O. Hirschman, Lewis, and others have defined it, and of what M arx him­ self called the advent of "Modem Industry" (1:368-466).10 Yet M arx did not treat accumulation and Modem Industry as interchangeable concepts or moments; instead he claimed that his general law covered three different (but overlapping) forms of accumulation. From this standpoint, the rise in the organic composition of capital presupposes a faster growth rate in De8

Making Use of M arx

partment I than in II, but does not stipulate that the relation between them which is observable under the regime of Modem Industry necessarily holds under all other forms or stages of accumulation. We might then suppose that there is a stage before (or after) Modem Industry, one in which the rise in the organic composition of capital takes place as a consequence of a boom in the consumer goods sector, through which increased demand for and output of means of production, and a recognizable division of labor between Departments I and II, are created or enforced by the expansion of Department II. At this stage, the expansion of Department I would be the derivative of expansion in Department II— pro­ duction would still presuppose a certain level of consumption— but accu­ mulation would nevertheless be under way.11 In any event, accumulation so conceived requires the creation of "surplus labor," or a labor force that is not needed to produce for purposes of immediate consumption. That division of labor presupposes the growth of the labor force as such: "Accumulation is, therefore, increase of the proletariat," as Marx suggested in analyzing the reproduction of the social relation between capital and labor (1:6 7 3). The corresponding growth of consumer demand— the new working class must buy the right not to die of starvation or exposure— presumably stimu­ lates concentration, innovation, and greater investment in consumer goods industries; the result is not only larger output but also increased labor pro­ ductivity in these industries. A s productivity here continues to increase, the quantity of consumer goods required to sustain the total labor force can be produced by a decreasing proportion of that labor force, regardless of the scale of consumer demand; and so an increasing proportion of total labor force growth can be diverted from production for immediate consumption, thus devoted to purposes of accumulation. In this sense, the early stages of accumulation are necessarily predicated on and driven by the growth of consumer demand, that is, by the expansion of Department II.12 In the course of the nineteenth century— the age of industrialization— the expansion of Department II does, however, become a function of expan­ sion in Department I, and the priority of the latter is accordingly inscribed in economic theory as well as in Victorian culture. In view of this reversal, the breathless announcements of "the birth of consumer society" in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century sound premature at best, unless the only claim at issue in such announcements is that, with the breakdown of a household economy and the creation of a working class that spends what it gets in wages, the commodity form must reshape every dimension of social life. Even so, we should not be surprised to find that the inversion of the original relation between Departments I and II, at least in the United M aking Use of M arx


Slates and the United Kingdom, is the result of that sudden or rapid growth in consumer demand now deemed "the birth of consumer society," in the absence of which much larger investment in expensive capital goods, to re­ duce costs per unit of expanded consumer goods output— that is, to increase labor productivity— would have been irrational.13 We w ill be returning to the question of the timing of this reversal in the United States. For now, the question before us is whether we should treat M arx's general law of accumulation as anything more than an article of faith that overdetermines the formal model of reproduction, thus making it the prototype of dogmatic Marxism. To begin with, we should note that the argument of the general law was aimed at the tendency in classical political economy to equate accumulation and labor force growth— that is, to equate the value of the annual wage bill and the value of total annual output. Adam Smith, James M ill, David Ricardo, and other early theorists of capitalism did not usually treat accumulation as a matter of producing, purchasing, and maintaining means of production as well as labor power, and did not, therefore, perceive any limits on the share of national income available for purposes of consumption.14 In short, they saw no contradic­ tion between accumulation and consumption. Marx did. He argued that the increasing significance of "constant capital"— as both physical input and bearer of value— required the diversion of an increasing proportion of available resources to the production, purchase, and maintenance of means of production; since these resources included the income generated by past production, this diversion meant, among other things, that an increasing share of national income would be withheld from consumption. Growth enforced by the "priority of Department I" would, then, exact an opportu­ nity cost in the form of foregone consumption, or, as Lewis would put it, in the form of forced saving equal to the value of gross investment (i.e., equal to the value of the capital goods used up and newly produced by labor plus the related costs of employing that labor). M arx's argument with clas­ sical political economy thus introduced the functional distinction between investment and consumption which animates all modern theories of eco­ nomic growth (as against programs of stabilization), particularly those that emphasize the role of capital formation or rates of investment.15 To that ex­ tent, the departure from Smith, M ill, and Ricardo announced in the general law of accumulation has become an axiom of economic theory. Historical studies of economic growth are by and large based on this same axiom. For example, the notion that growth involves change in "fac­ tor proportions," or a rise in the ratio of capital to labor, is a commonplace of economic history (it is often cited as a cause of the increasing scale of


Making Use of M arx

industrial operation). So, too, is the related idea that an increase in capitaloutput ratios characterizes modern economic development. These ratios, which are calculated in value terms, show that in the United States, capital inputs per unit of total industrial output increased dramatically until about 19 19 . But this is only a way of saying that the "value composition of capi­ tal" in the United States changed precisely as predicted by M arx's law of accumulation.16 For a rise in capital-output ratios means simply that "the industries that sell to other industries grow faster than the industries that sell to consumers," as Peter Temin puts it, or— as Albert O. Hirschman would have it— that the degree of industrial linkage and interdependence increases faster than the overall rate of economic growth, resulting in a rise in the proportion of total output "that does not go to final demand but rather to other industries."17 To be sure, historical studies of changes in the functional distribution of the labor force are more equivocal. Here the premises and purposes of dis­ aggregation were largely determined by economists' engagement with the postwar foreign policy issues of modernization and political stabilization in countries susceptible to statist modes of industrialization. The difference between agricultural and industrial (or primary and tertiary) employment accordingly became the organizing principle of their compilation of occu­ pational statistics for the nineteenth century, when the United States was itself undergoing modernization enforced by industrialization.18 Even so, the enthusiastic reception given to Walter Hoffmann's studies of "types and stages of industrialization" in the late 1950s would suggest that many economists recognized the need to differentiate between capital goods and consumer goods industries— as Hoffmann did— in depicting the division of labor specific to capitalist growth. Hoffmann's work, which was completed in 19 32 but not translated and widely disseminated until 1958, is analogous to the innovations of "the years of high theory" (1926-39) in at least two respects. First, the more pressing issues of fascism, world war, and decolo­ nization delayed its assimilation by economists and historians until the late 1950s. Second, and more important, it was an innovation predicated on the recovery or reinvention of an unclaimed theoretical legacy. In the case of Hoffmann, as in that of J. M. Keynes, Roy Harrod, W assily Leontief, and Kaledti— most of the "high theorists" of the interwar period— this legacy was the two-sector model of accumulation.19 The filial relation between the Marxian model and Leontief's inputoutput tableaux or Kalecki's essays on growth is quite clear because both these theorists began their careers, in the 1920s, with formal training in Marxian economics. Joan Robinson attributed Kalecki's head start on the M aking Use of M arx


Keynesian revolution to this training. "Keynes could never make head or tail of M arx. . . . But starting from Marx would have saved him a lot of trouble. [R. F.) Kahn, at the 'circus' where we discussed [Keynes's] Trea­ tise in 19 3 1, explained the problem of saving and investment by imagining a cordon around the capital-good industries and then studying the trade between them and the consumption-good industries; he was struggling to rediscover M arx's schema. Kalecki began at that point."20 The relation between the Marxian model of accumulation and Harrod's "dynamic economics," which he outlined in the late 1930s and elabo­ rated in the late 1940s and 1950s, is less obvious, notwithstanding Robin­ son's claim of an essential identity between Harrod's mathematics of "w ar­ ranted growth" and M arx's arithmetic of extended reproduction. But Evsey Domar, who invented a mathematical model of growth which is so sim ilar to Harrod's that economists normally refer to the Harrod-Domar model, openly acknowledged his debt to Marx and to Soviet theorizing of the 1920s. In that sense, the relation between Marx and the modern main­ stream of growth theory is perhaps as direct as Robinson would have it. Shigeto Tsuru's summary of their convergence does, in any event, suggest the possibility that, in the 1950s, economists were just catching up with M arx. "In both cases, that of Marx and Harrod, the question im plicitly asked is the same; namely, what are the factors which determine the pro­ portion in which the national product is divided between consumers' goods and producers' goods as the economy advances steadily. Since the two men dealt with basically the same problem, it is not at all accidental that the correspondence between them appears to be almost perfect."21 Comparisons of Marx and Keynes are usually more ambiguous. Yet the latter's crucial innovation was not so much the rejection of Say's Law or the specification of effective demand as the key problem of macroeconomics— on both counts, there were plenty of precedents in neoclassical theory— as it was the disaggregation of income, and thus demand, into the func­ tional components of investment and consumption. If a two-sector model is only implicit in this disaggregation, its subsequent articulation in Keynesian theories of growth nevertheless justifies the remark of A . K. DasGupta: "Keynes dynamized would look pretty much like M arx." For Keynes dyna­ mized looks exactly like Kalecki or Harrod and Domar.22 To my knowledge, Hoffmann does not acknowledge M arx's model of accumulation as the theoretical source or rationale for his studies of the division of labor under capitalist industrialization. For that matter, neither did Keynes, Harrod, or Leontief (although the last did not have to, and has in any case written on Marx and modem economics). But the question at


Making Use o f M arx

hand is not whether every model of growth should be judged by its possible affiliation with or conscious derivation from Marx, as if he were the one great economist from whom all theories flow; it is instead whether, in view of economic theory and history since the mid-nineteenth century, we can treat his general law of accumulation as something more than an article of faith, as something like an indispensable insight into the growth pattern peculiar to capitalism. It now seems fair to answer that M arx's general law and its implications are in fact consistent with and indeed embedded in the modern mainstream of both economic theory and economic history. This is not to say that we are all Marxists now— merely that if we want to under­ stand economic growth since 1750, it is practically impossible, and certainly pointless, to avoid M arx's model of accumulation.

Social Origins of Economic Growth We can finally turn to the formal version of that model secure in the knowl­ edge that it is not simply sectarian dogma. Marx presented it in terms of value relations because he was trying to demonstrate the linkage between the volume of physical production in each department (supply) and the conditions of realization (demand) by reference to labor-time, that is, to proportionate quantities of employment. Each element in his equations ac­ cordingly functions as both cost of and demand for products. In this way, he illustrated that the costs of employing labor also constituted demand for consumer goods, or, to put it another way, that the condition of the receipt of income in the form of wages— thus of an effective claim to a share of consumer goods— was implication in the production and reproduc­ tion of value through work.23 But the disaggregation into two departments was carried out on the assumption that each department's final output had unique material functions or use values, either as capital goods or as con­ sumer goods. Thus Marx decomposed the value of each department into "constant capital," "variable capital," and "surplus value" (C + V + S) and proceeded to the depiction of the interdepartmental commerce that would create equilibrium. Under the conditions of simple reproduction, no net additions to the capi­ tal stock are made because capitalists consume the entire surplus value accruing to them as owners of the means of production: there is no net investment— and no accumulation— because the supply of constant capital produced in Department I corresponds in value only to the constant capital used up and requiring replacement in both departments. The quantity of Making Use of M arx


labor-time and the productivity of labor in Department I must then be such as to produce only the equivalent of the value of, or the cost of replacing and maintaining, the constant capital used in Department II. Under the conditions of expanded reproduction, the supply of constant capital produced in Department I exceeds replacement requirements be­ cause capitalists have invested a portion of the surplus value accruing to them— that is, they have purchased supplies of raw materials and means of production (constant capital), but also of labor power (variable capital), over and above those supplies needed to replace existing plant and equip­ ment or to maintain existing levels of output. They have incurred the costs, including the labor costs, of making net additions to the capital stock, and so have provided for net investment. The system is in balance if the quantity of labor-time and the productivity of labor in Department I are sufficient to provide for the growth of demand for constant capital from Department II. But expanded reproduction or accumulation as such is the cause of a rise in the organic composition of capital (C:V)— and thus of a relative decline in the value of variable capital or a fall in the share of wages in national income.24 The effect of expanded reproduction will then be a declining rate of growth in demand for the output of Department II and, consequently, a declining rate of growth in demand for the output of Department I. At that point, the system is caught in a "low-level equilibrium trap," or in a generalized overproduction crisis. In the long run, therefore, the suffi­ cient condition of expanded reproduction must be something other than the growth of demand for constant capital represented by the growth of De­ partment II. For when the system approaches its equilibrium condition, it verges on crisis. What is that sufficient condition? We might say that it resides*in the reversal of the original relation between Departments I and II. But the ques­ tion then becomes, how is this reversal accomplished? To ask either question is to suggest that we need to specify the sources of disequilibrium, and to provide some account of how they are introduced and enforced over time. Now we know that in M arx's model, the crucial source of disequilibrium is investment: the system moves according to how the surplus accruing to capitalists is divided between consumption and investment, while invest­ ment itself is conceived in terms of expenditures for both means of produc­ tion and labor power. We also know that economists and economic histo­ rians of radically different political propensities have converged on the idea that "self-sustaining growth" involves a "once-over savings rate change" which in turn allows "autonomous investment." In other words, they agree that the sufficient condition of expanded reproduction— of escape from a


Making Use o f M arx

"low-level equilibrium trap"— is the shift in income shares which allows Department I to grow faster than the increase in demand from Depart­ ment II would warrant. But this is only a way of saying that the reversal of the original or equilibrium relation between the two departments is, or became, the sufficient condition of expanded reproduction. Lewis describes such a reversal as follows: "All the countries which are now relatively developed have at some time in the past gone through a period of rapid acceleration, in the course of which their rate of annual net investment has moved from 5 per cent or less to 12 per cent or more. This is what we mean by an Industrial Revolution." Rostow concurs in his analysis of the stages of growth, of course, but so do neoclassical economists such as Jeffrey G. Williamson and Marxists such as Coontz. The latter, for example, proposes that capitalists' investment in Department I becomes "autonomous"— that is, it becomes independent of the growth of demand for constant capital originating in Department II— when "potential demand for producer goods is increased by the rise in the share of entrepreneurial incom e."“ But the questions that follow from this consensus are not themselves susceptible to strictly economic or quantitative analysis, as Rostow argued thirty years ago: "The rise in the rate of investment— which the economist conjures up to summarize the transition [to self-sustaining growth]— re­ quires a radical shift in the society's effective attitude toward fundamental and applied science; toward the initiation of change in productive tech­ nique; toward the taking of risk; and toward the conditions and methods of work. One must say a change in effective attitude . . . because what is involved here is not some vague change in psychological or sociological ori­ entation, but a change translated into working institutions and procedures." And so economists must appeal to other disciplines if they would explain these sudden or significant shifts in income shares and rates of investment as both effects of past development and causes of future growth; at that point, economic theory gives way to social or cultural history, and a theory of growth becomes a theory of "modernization" if not a philosophy of his­ tory. Certainly Moses Abramovitz admitted as much in 19 52, in a survey of growth theory which, following the Keynesian lead, stressed that capital formation and investment were the key variables: "The foundation of an adequate theory of capital formation does, in fact, involve grappling with a complex sociological tangle which can hardly be unraveled with the aid of such concepts and hypotheses as economics now furnishes."26 Here, too, M arx's model meets the requirements of explanatory adequacy, because it presupposes a theory of capitalist society. For example, the key variable in the reproduction schemes, as in modern theories of growth, is M aking Use of M arx


investment. But the distribution of income between capital and labor is not given or determined by the model— as it is in the production functions of modern economics—-except insofar as the model is designed to show how the rise in the organic composition of capital and the corresponding shift in income shares are made possible by exchange between the two depart­ ments. In short, the model shows what is necessary if accumulation is to proceed smoothly, not that it will proceed smoothly. For M arx, distribu­ tion was determined by the relation between income claimants construed as social classes. Thus the "rate of exploitation"— the ratio between surplus value and variable capital— would determine how large a share of the value produced by employed labor could be appropriated and invested by capi­ talists. But M arx insisted that this ratio, which we would now translate as the relation between labor productivity growth and real wages, was itself a social product subject to the changing contours and balance of class power.27 In such perspective, the distribution of value or income sufficient to sus­ tain expanded reproduction over the long run is contingent on the produc­ tion and reproduction of those social relations that validate an increasing rate of exploitation through the subjection of labor to capital. As Rostow would put it, "the rise in the rate of investment"— in other words, the rever­ sal of the original relation between Departments I and II— is contingent on political, social, and cultural change embodied in "working institutions and procedures." In the United States, as elsewhere in the world after 1790, such change sooner or later assumed revolutionary proportions. But if politi­ cal, social, and cultural phenomena sooner or later become dimensions of economic growth, the requirements of economic growth w ill meanwhile redefine the imaginable range of political, social, and cultural possibilities. The distribution of value or income sufficient to sustain expanded repro­ duction, for example, can enforce the subjection of labor to capital and thus constrain the emergence of a different set of social relations. For if "the rise in the rate of investment" signifies a shift in the balance of social power, and if opportunities are thereafter allocated according to the distribution of income, then to maintain the higher rate of investment and its corre­ sponding claims on future incomes is to maintain the new balance of power. The diversion of resources from production for immediate consumption, in other words, is not an economic event that has certain political and cultural consequences or connotations; it is itself a political and cultural event. In sum, the Marxian model depicts economic growth or expanded re­ production in social terms, as a social process. So conceived, growth— im plicitly defined as increasing output, labor productivity, and per capita incomes— requires increasing inputs of the labor-time necessary to pro-


Making Use o f M arx

duce means of production in excess of replacement requirements, and to operate that increment of means of production. To put it more plainly, accumulation sim ply is this process through which an ever greater propor­ tionate share of an increasing quantity of socially necessary labor-time is devoted to purposes other than production for immediate consumption.28A t a certain point in the process, therefore, the condition of continued quan­ titative increase in that proportionate share becomes qualitative change in the inherited relation between production and consumption, in the absence of which a reversion to "proto-industrial" production of consumer goods within a household or fam ily economy, not capitalist industrialization, w ill ensue. If effected, the maintenance of the new relation depends fundamen­ tally on a distribution of income that increases effective demand for the output of the capital goods sector by increasing surplus value or profits visà-vis variable capital or wages; which is to say, yet again, that the restric­ tion of consumption eventually becomes both condition and consequence of capital accumulation. B y this account, economic growth as enforced by capital accumulation has been anything but laborsaving. According to Marx, there is a neces­ sary correlation between growth and accumulation, and accumulation itself is conceived as the increase of socially necessary labor-time. Now in the nineteenth century, the broad application of complex machines to goods production did in fact enlarge the meaning and scope of necessary labor by creating whole new industries that produced the machines and their intermediate or unfinished inputs; to that extent, M arx's model provides indispensable insights into capitalist industrialization. But do these correla­ tions hold for the twentieth century? Many economists and historians have noted that since about 19 10 , economic growth has proceeded as a function of a decline in socially necessary labor-time (due to electrification, instru­ mentation, "automation," etc.), or have suggested that the apparent atrophy of net private investment in the interwar period (and after) signifies the attainment, or at least the possibility, of growth without the attributes of accumulation.29 If they are correct, on what grounds can we say that M arx's model remains applicable to the twentieth century? Is it so narrowly focused on the production of value through necessary labor that it cannot help us grasp the very epoch in which the realm of necessity has been receding? Or does it retain a certain relevance after all? A persuasive answer to such questions would require yet another dis­ course on M arx's method. A provisional but plausible defense of his rele­ vance to the twentieth century would require only that we acknowledge his explicit anticipation of an end to accumulation (and not merely in the M aking Use of M arx


"revolutionary" asides that were never excised from the unfinished manu­ scripts). In view of his contempt for economists who treated capitalism as a transhistorical or natural social order, it would be surprising to find that he had not attempted to describe the beginnings of this end. But we have already encountered one attempt along these lines in Capital, where M arx notes that the growth of labor productivity appears "in the diminution of the mass of labour in proportion to the mass of means of production moved by it, or in the diminution of the subjective factor of the labour process as compared with the objective factor." If accumulation means the increase of necessary labor in every sense, he seems to claim, it also promises to extri­ cate human labor from goods production, to reduce the "subjective factor of the labour process" to virtually nothing. These perverse possibilities are realized "to the degree that large industry develops," as Marx argued in the preliminary studies for Capital: "The creation of real wealth comes to de­ pend less on labour time and on the amount of labour employed than on the power of the agencies set in motion during labour time, whose 'powerful effectiveness' is itself in turn out of all proportion to the direct labour time spent on their production, but depends rather on the general state of science and technology, or the application of this science to production." The "mon­ strous disproportion" between the increasing quantity of current labor-time applied to goods production and the exponentially increasing quantity of goods produced is reiterated in the "qualitative imbalance between labour, reduced to a pure abstraction, and the power of the production process it superintends."30 This new distance between labor and the labor process— this abstraction or impending extrication— implies two new realities that Marx treats as already manifest within modern-industrial production. First, the nature of work itself changes. "Labour no longer appears so much to be included within the production process; rather, the human being comes to relate more as watchman and regulator to the production process itself. . . . No longer does the worker insert a modified natural thing [a tool?] as middle link between the object and himself; rather, he inserts the process of nature, transformed into an industrial process, as a means between himself and in­ organic nature, mastering it. He steps to the side of the production process instead of being its chief actor." Second, the class relation between labor and capital changes (and with it the larger relations of production that compose modern-industrial civil society?) insofar as "the mass of direct labour time, the quantity of labour employed" loses its role as the "determinant factor in the production of wealth"— insofar, that is, as "large industry" develops


Making Use of M arx

and transmutes "general social knowledge" into fixed capital, a "direct force of production." For the presupposition of the class relation between labor and capital ("the exchange of living labour for objectified labour") is the dif­ ference between necessary and surplus labor-time, the difference between the value of labor power and the value of the products of labor, the dif­ ference that accumulation enlarges over time. But when workers can "step to the side of the production process" because fixed capital— the "objective factor" in that process— has supplanted or reduced their active input, the increase of necessary forms of labor and of socially necessary labor-time has ceased. By definition, so, too, has accumulation. At any rate M arx sug­ gests as much. "As soon as labour in the direct form has ceased to be the great well-spring of wealth, labour time ceases and must cease to be its measure, and hence exchange value [must cease to be the measure] of use v a lu e .. . . With that, production based on exchange value breaks down, and the direct, material production process is stripped of the form of penury and antithesis."31 Production based on exchange value has of course not broken down: penury and antithesis are still very much with us. But M arx should not be ridiculed or dismissed because he believed that the end of accumulation would signal the beginning of the end of capitalism. In this he resembles nothing so much as the "stagnationists," those peculiarly Keynesian pessi­ mists led by A lvin Hansen, who believed that if remunerative investment opportunities would not increase because capital requirements per unit of output were not rising as they had in the nineteenth century— and in­ deed were falling— then capitalism could not last beyond the mid-twentieth century without fundamental reconstruction.32 What neither Marx nor the stagnationists could imagine was a capitalist society in which surplus value had lost its investment function— in which capitalists appropriate but do not (need to) accumulate out of the surplus value accruing to them as owners of the means of production, because growth in output and labor productivity does not require net investment. But Marx did posit a decline in socially necessary labor-time as the inevitable consequence of its increase under the aegis of accumulation. So it is fair to say that he recognized the impend­ ing inversion, and indeed that his model of accumulation enabled him to recognize its significance. For the model takes as its point of departure the difference between the production of labor power and the productivity of human labor which capitalism creates and enforces. "Though the existence of surplus-labour presupposes that the productivity of labour has reached a certain level, the mere possibility of this surplus-labour . . . does not in

M aking Use of M arx


itself make it a reality. For this to occur, the labourer must first be com­ pelled to work in excess of the [necessary labor] time, and this compulsion is exerted by capital."“ The theoretical comprehension of a capitalist society in which surplus value has lost its investment function should, then, begin at the ending M arx identified with the development of "large industry." This is precisely where Martin Sklar did begin in 1969, when he argued that corporate capitalism, which emerged ca. 1890 -1920 in the United States, should be understood in terms of the "disaccumulation" of capital. His abbreviated analysis of this fundamental transformation warrants our close attention because it illuminates, as no other theory has, the new relation between production and consumption which characterizes twentieth-century "mass society," which gives Keynesian economics its lease on policy, and which not incidentally animates modern consumer culture. Sklar claimed that his analysis flowed directly from Marx's theory of value. Accordingly, he de­ fined accumulation and disaccumulation as a social relation, in terms of "the ratio between the labor-time represented by [wage earners] exercising labor-power, and the social labor-time embodied in the means of produc­ tion." A s we have seen, this ratio is what Marx termed the value relation between variable capital and constant capital. "The relationship is one of capital accumulation," Sklar then explained, "so long as an increased pro­ duction and operation of means of production requires an increased em­ ployment of living human labor-power measured in man-hours of socially necessary labor."34 Disaccumulation is simply the inversion of accumulation so defined. "At the point where there is no such increased employment of labor-power in the production and operation of the means of production, that is, where the production and operation of the means of production results in expanded production of goods without the expansion of such employment of laborpower, capital accumulation has entered the process of transformation to disaccumulation. In other words, disaccumulation means that the expansion of goods-production capacity proceeds as a function of the sustained decline of required, and possible, labor-time employment in goods-production." A s usual, the implications are more interesting than the mere statement of the theory. In this case, there are two implications that are especially per­ tinent to the question of the political economy of consumer culture. First, the passage from the phase of accumulation to the phase of disaccumula­ tion, ca. 19 10 -3 0 , "coincides with the partial and progressing extrication of human labor from the immediate goods-production process." That passage also coincides, then, with the emergence of a society in which the "directly


Making Use of M arx

effective determinant of general social relations" is not necessarily relations of production. Second, the onset of disaccumulation dissolves the contradic­ tion between production and consumption which had hitherto characterized the theory and practice of capitalist industrialization: "The necessity of de­ ferring immediate consumption as the condition of expanded production capacity falls aw ay."35 Construed as a social process with economic consequences, disaccumula­ tion means that the growth of the labor force in Department I practically ceases; all subsequent labor force growth must, then, be absorbed by De­ partment II, the consumer goods sector, with all that suggests for the struc­ ture of demand and the distribution of income required to sustain growth. Construed as an economic phenomenon with social consequences, disaccu­ mulation means that the functional relation between capitalist appropriation of surplus value or profit and the expansion of productive capacity is at­ tenuated if not dissolved, because making net additions to the total capital stock and to the labor force of Department I— in a word, net investment— is no longer the necessary condition of increasing either output or labor productivity. The celebration of private investment out of profit as the criti­ cal source of growth accordingly becomes absurd; so, too, does the related claim that capitalists and private enterprise are the indispensable agents of progress.

Composition o f Capital, Decomposition o f Capitalism We can now proceed on the assumption that a Marxian model of accu­ mulation is immediately relevant to the study of the political economy of consumer culture because it allows us to specify the role of consumption in capitalist growth. To be more precise, that model warrants the following claims, which can hereafter be elaborated, modified, or abandoned in light of the available historical evidence. i. In the initial ("proto-industrial") stage of accumulation, ca. 17 9 0 18 50 , the division of labor between the capital goods and consumer goods sectors is relatively undeveloped; demand for the output of Department I is largely derived from the growth of Department II, which is in turn a function of (a) proletarianization of agricultural populations and urban working-class formation, and (b) the commercialization of agriculture and the breakdown of a household economy, through which markets and money come to mediate exchanges of goods hitherto negotiated more directly, through forms of barter. In short, growth as such is consumer-led. M aking Use of M arx


2. In the second stage of accumulation— capitalist industrialization, ca. 18 4 0 -19 20 — the rate and morphology of growth are determined by "autonomous investment," which is in turn contingent on a reversal of the original ("proto-industrial") relation between Departments I and II. The condition and consequence of that reversal is a new distribution of income, which increases effective demand for the output of Department I and thereby enforces the "rise in the rate of investment." So conceived, the reversal presupposes (a) the rapid growth of consumer demand in the 1830 s and 1840s ("the birth of consumer society" in the United States), which justifies the greater outlay on plant and equipment summarized in the "rise in the rate of investment," and (b) political, social, and cultural change ca. 1846-70, culminating in the abdication of merchant capital— the power behind King Cotton's throne— and the Republican revolution in fiscal-economic policy ca. 1863-70. 3. In this second stage of accumulation, we can specify three separate phases of growth, each of which is characterized by a different balance of social power and a corresponding distribution of income: (a) 18 4 6 -73, the moment of the great inversion— the "rise in the rate of investment"— which makes industrial capital the source of economic strategy or policy for the United States and institutionalizes, as it were, the "priority of Depart­ ment I"; (b) 18 73-9 7, "Great Stalemate," during which phase a relative stagnation in the capital goods sector is created and enforced by the diver­ gence of labor productivity and real wages in the nonfarm sector, as a result of which the distribution of income between profits and wages necessary to sustain "autonomous investment" cannot be realized; the corresponding growth of labor's share of national income vis-à-vis capital is reflected not only in a boom in the consumer goods sector— the movement toward mass marketing through integrated retail firms is specific to the 1880$— but also in the increasing consternation of capitalists with respect to the distribu­ tion of income as such; (c) 18 9 7 -19 19 , the triumph of corporate-industrial capital, through which the distribution of income specific to (a) above is reinstated and the "priority of Department I" is reinscribed in the pattern of economic growth. 4. In the third stage of accumulation— capital disaccumulation, ca. 1 9 10 70— the rate and morphology of growth come increasingly to be determined by consumer expenditures, as net investment necessarily atrophies and labor force growth is concentrated almost exclusively in the consumer goods sec­ tor (and of course in its adjunct, the so-called services). Here, too, we can specify separate phases in the decomposition of capital(ism): (a) 19 19 -2 9 , the first period in which the tendencies characteristic of disaccumulation


Making Use of M arx

were manifested (and also perceived), but in which the distribution of in­ come was increasingly skewed toward capital, resulting inevitably in the crash of 1929 and the Great Depression— the first business cycle whose contours were defined and complicated by the fact that recovery (ca. 19 3 3 37) did not require rising rates of investment; the key to the buoyancy of the 1920s, in such perspective, was the constraint on the underlying shift to profits represented by the rapid growth of a salaried, white-collar middle class, whose income was in effect a deduction from surplus value and thus a component of capitalist consumption; (b) 19 2 9 -4 1, the Great Depression proper, which, precisely because it comprised such an enormous social-political crisis, could accommodate the fundamental shift of income shares— the promotion of mass consumption— demanded by growth under disaccumulation; if it did not threaten the sanctity of private investment as the arbiter of growth, this shift did require that the receipt of wage in­ come be detached from the capital-labor relation and the production of value through work ("detached," e.g., by welfare, public works, social security, etc.); (c) 19 4 1-5 4 , the interregnum of war economy and world reconstruc­ tion, through which the terms of debate on the role of private investment in economic growth were recast by confrontation with the statist alternative at home and abroad, not by reconsideration of investment as such, and in which consumption was deferred according to politico-military purposes, not the perceived requirements of economic growth; and (d) 1954—73, re~ capitulation of the themes of the 1920s, except that mass consumption now becomes, and is widely defined as, the fulcrum of economic growth, and the question of investment becomes increasingly problematic in both theory and practice. Even when rendered in such schematic fashion, these claims do not sound controversial. But that is one of their virtues. For I want to suggest that there is a way to reconcile the older periodization of consumer culture, which held that it emerged in the twentieth century, and the newer peri­ odization, which holds that it is synonymous with the generalization of the commodity form or the creation of a market in labor. I want to sug­ gest, in other words, that if we are to appreciate consumer culture, we must understand the development of capitalism. We must then understand that markets and commodities are not specific to capitalism, and presumably will not disappear even when it becomes impossible to distinguish between the development of postindustrial society and the decomposition of capitalism.

Making Use o f M arx




185O-I9OO Households into Markets Evsey Domar has observed that a society's propensity to consume may be low, and its propensity to save accordingly high, and yet its rate of investment might be comparatively low because its capital goods sector is relatively backward. "A closed economy without well-developed metal, machinery, and subsidiary industries (the complex of the so-called heavy industries) is unable to produce a sizable quantity of capital goods and thus to invest a high fraction of its income, however high its potential saving propensity may b e ."1 Domar made this observation with reference to the Soviet planning debates of the 1920s, but it can serve as an apt characteriza­ tion of the American economy before 1850. It was only toward the middle of the century that the potential savings of the United States could be chan­ neled into industries producing capital goods, and only during and after the Civil War that public policy and private-sector financial institutions vali­ dated this diversion of resources away from the established consumer goods industries of the Northeast. But the capital goods industries that came of age at midcentury were themselves spawned by the rapid development of established consumer goods industries; and this development was the effect of fundamental demo­ graphic and social changes summarized by historians under the heading of the breakdown of the household or family economy. The turning point in the process came between 1846 and 1857, when the mechanization of prairie farming, the sudden increase of immigration, the completion of the eastwest trunk lines, and the collapse of the outwork system in New England 24

combined to change the composition as well as the level of final demand, and to justify a scale of investment which, in turn, fostered the growth of indus­ tries geared strictly to the production of capital goods. If they were not all situated in the area bounded by Pittsburgh and Chicago, these new indus­ tries were peculiarly dependent on the continued expansion of mechanized prairie farming and, in effect, on the development of a continental market for their output. Moreover, they were subject, as the established (and onceprotected) consumer goods industries were not, to the price competition of British manufacturers; and yet they had virtually no access to the financial resources long available (since 1808) to the northeastern consumer goods industries.2 So the chances were slim that these new capital goods industries would continue to develop without a radical reorientation of federal economic policy. In this sense, the political choices made in the late 1850s and the 1860s determined the pace and contours of American economic growth in the late nineteenth century. When economists announce that "America had successfully overcome the problem of industrialization by i8 6 0 "— that is, before a Republican-controlled Congress created a unitary laborproperty system, a new financial apparatus, and a protected continental market through nonmilitary legislation— we should therefore be skepti­ cal, especially in view of their reverence for the economies of scale made possible by large markets. When historians claim that the Civil War some­ how "retarded" industrialization, or that the events of the 1860s do not matter much in any case, we should be equally skeptical.3 For it was not until the 1860s that the long-standing federal policy of promoting a freetrade, Atlantic economy— a policy that presupposed the extension of slave labor and King Cotton— was finally replaced by the alternative program of the radical, trans-Allegheny wing of the Republican Party, which promoted continental, not metropolitan, industrialization, and afforded the "heavy industries" the kind of protection once reserved for textiles. The turning point of 18 4 6 -57 can be defined as such, then, because the new industrial possibilities impending, but only impending, in this moment were realized by the revolutionary politics that followed. Let us examine this moment more closely, to see how these new indus­ trial possibilities became political choices. The transformation in question was not a linear process. The breakdown of the household economy, for example, was both cause and effect of the boom in the consumer goods industries which dominated antebellum development, and which mean­ while permitted the emergence of capital goods industries. It was a cause insofar as the appropriation of goods necessary to the reproduction of the Consumer Goods


household increasingly required money or store credit— that is, the media­ tion of the merchant— and represented demand for the output of distant producers. It was an effect insofar as the lower unit costs of new and highly capitalized farms that were immediately implicated in interregional markets placed the older farms of the Northeast at the margin of going concerns, and thus forced them to find new sources of income, often in the labor mar­ ket. For my purposes, however, what is most interesting about the recent debates on the household economy is the agreement on its chronological scope: according to its chroniclers, its breakdown (in the North) was specific to the late 1830s and early 1840s. This suggests that the first crisis of the emerging market economy (the depression of 1837-44) coincided with the new contours of internal migration, which quickly changed the patterns of both supply and demand for the nation as a whole.4 Until the late 1830s, the farm economy of the Northwest was largely a subsistence economy, a close replica of what the emigrants had left behind in the border states. The farms created in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois in the 1820s were cleared on relatively steep grades from forestland. Their pro­ prietors marketed a surplus of corn and hogs (bacon, ham, pork) downriver only if household requirements had already been met. That surplus did grow quite rapidly in the 1820s, at a rate even faster than the remarkable rate of population growth in the Northwest. But these subsistence farmers did not represent comparable growth in demand for manufactured goods from the Northeast. The costs of creating their farms out of the forested land of the Ohio River valley were not such as to implicate them immediately in debt and therefore in producing cash crops for sale in distant markets (the greater labor costs of clearing forestland did not have to be recouped quickly in money because they were incurred in the form of the house­ hold's labor, or through exchange in kind with other households, and the timber then served as materials for a dwelling). And they had no need for expensive machinery to plow the land or harvest the crop, since they were not raising small grains on flat land and large farms, but corn and hogs on small farms in the hills. In short, they produced limited surpluses for the limited markets of the South; the commodities they appropriated by means of their money incomes were accordingly a small fraction of the goods they needed and used.5 Things changed with the development of prairie farming in the North­ west states after 1840, but more particularly with the mechanization of such farm ing in the late 1840s and the 1850s. The families that created the new farms came from or through areas already in transition to a market econ­ omy— they were culturally prepared to act on the greater psychological


Consumer Goods

costs of producing for the market, and thus to accept the higher monetary costs of farm making on the prairie. Between the m id-i830s and the early 1850s, the costs of farm making as such doubled or tripled, due m ainly to higher prices for land (the speculators had arrived early) but also to the re­ quirements of fencing, housing, and well-digging on land without trees or rivers. The corresponding burden of debt created irresistible incentives for specialized, mechanized cash crop production— that is, for rational market behavior— on an astonishing scale. In the 1850$, 250,000 new farms were established in the Northwest, adding 19 million acres of improved farm ­ land, usually on larger farms, to the nation's total; in Illinois, for example, where improved acreage increased 163 percent, average farm size increased 40 percent in the decade, but even more in the northern counties, where the land was almost devoid of contour and the soil was particularly rich. Between 1849 and 1854, moreover, the value of improvements to farmland tripled; for the decade of the 1850s, the increase in the value of farm im ­ plements and machinery was 6 1 percent, greater than for any other decade of the nineteenth century. Meanwhile, grain prices rose much faster than farm labor costs— a result of increasing demand from both the seaboard cities, where the new immigrants congregated, and Great Britain, which had repealed its tariffs on imports of grain in 1846— so that the immediate savings in labor costs made possible by use of reapers, threshers, mowers, and seed drills made up for the considerable outlay on the new machines. Moreover, the "term s of trade" for northwestern produce improved radi­ cally, by 76 percent between 1846 and 1859, because the prices of consumer goods shipped to the Northwest did not increase as fast as grain prices did.6 This improvement meant a corresponding increase in demand for those goods, which the prairie farmers bought because, in the new context of production for eastern markets, the opportunity cost of diverting a signifi­ cant portion of their household's labor to the domestic production of such goods was lower output of cash crops and thus lower revenue with which to cover debts, to increase future output, and to purchase the insignia of prosperity. But the composition as well as the level of demand was chang­ ing— or rather the composition of demand was changing because the level of demand was. For example, the entrepreneurs of Lynn who were trying desperately to increase the output of boots and shoes in the mid-to-late 1840s understood perfectly well that they were trying to meet the new de­ mands of urban and western markets. Between 1845 and 1850, they hired enough labor to double output. By the end of the decade, however, they faced a severe shortage of labor— the limits of the outwork system had finally been reached— and productivity was stagnant if not declining. Their Consumer Goods


response was to adapt sewing machines to the tasks of stitching and binding, thus increasing output in line with the new contours of consumer demand while reducing costs per unit of output. In doing so, these entrepreneurs invented factory discipline in shoemaking, but, in their drive to profit from the increase of consumer expenditures, they also created a demand for com­ panies and industries that would produce the sewing machines and their inputs. The transformation in question was virtually completed between 18 52 and i860. The "disintegration" of textile machinery production— its detachment from textile companies and its emergence as an industry in its own right— was not incidentally completed in the same decade.7 The possibility of meeting the new demands of western markets would never have arisen in the absence of east-west trunk lines that could move goods to and from areas in which water transport was unavailable or inade­ quate. In this sense, it is probably impossible to overestimate the importance of the railroads in creating and enforcing the new patterns of production and consumption which characterized the turning point of 1846-57. Even so, we should not insist on the kind of either/or proposition Alfred Chandler occasionally indulges, through which the level or composition of demand becomes irrelevant and the key constraint on or cause of economic change becomes technological (a matter of supply). The weaknesses of this approach are evident in his treatment of coal. According to Chandler, the opening of the Pennsylvania anthracite fields in the 1830s lifted the "most significant" technological constraint on economic innovation of the antebellum period. But the technology of anthracite-fired iron was widely understood as early as the 1820s. Very few entrepreneurs acted on this knowledge and invested in costly anthracite furnaces until the mid-to-late 1840s, when the demand for high-quality, easily malleable, charcoal-fired "merchant bar" declined, and the demand for cheaper, more brittle, anthracite-fired iron— for use in machine construction (and reconstruction, i.e ., replacing wooden parts with metal)— began to increase.* That new demand came largely from industries that produced agricultural machinery (by i860, 20 percent of all machinery produced in the United States was agricultural machinery), from industries that sold machines to companies that processed raw agricultural output (one of every three steam engines in use before i860 was housed in a flour and grist m ill), and from industries that were building specialized machines to replace learned skills in the production of consumer goods (as in shoemaking). The pan played by mechanized prairie farming in creating such derived demand for capital goods is probably even more significant than this list would suggest. For if the proletarianization of eastern farmers and the consequent migration


Consumer Goods

from the countryside produced more city dwellers than did immigration ca. 18 4 6 -6 0 , and if the phenomenal growth of the urban population in the same period— it increased about three times as fast as the general popula­ tion— accounts for a large share of the growth of consumer demand, then mechanized prairie farming, which supplied the new urban population with necessary foodstuffs, created the conditions of its own expansion by pro­ ducing more efficiently than eastern farmers and eventually driving them (or their sons and daughters) into the cities, where, as proletarians, they had to buy what they had once been able to produce at home or to appropriate through local exchange in kind. From this standpoint, it is not surprising that the rate of urbanization in the two antebellum decades exceeds any sub­ sequent rates, and that the growth of small towns (those with populations of twenty-five hundred to twenty-five thousand) peaked between 18 52 and i860, at the moment immigration began to slow and mechanized prairie farm ing came into its own.9 In any event, it is worth repeating that the composition of demand changed because the level of consumer demand increased. To illustrate the point, let us reconsider the iron industry. The initial investment for fur­ naces that used coal to heat iron ore was about 50 percent higher than re­ quired for charcoal furnaces; but the capacity of the anthracite furnaces was about double, sometimes triple, that of comparable charcoal plants. Thus the use of anthracite promised lower capital costs per unit of output only if there was enough remunerative demand for the doubled or tripled out­ put of which the new furnaces were capable. To be cost-effective, in other words, the switch to anthracite (then to coked coal) had to be predicated on an enormous increase in demand for cheap, low-quality iron, which would be sold not to country stores and blacksmiths but directly to metalworking industries.10 Now the metalworking industries par excellence are those that produce machines which function as capital equipment. But it was the boom in the consumer goods sector that permitted the growth of such industries; most of the specialized machines in use before i860— reapers, threshers, sewing machines, steam engines, drawing frames, spinning throstles and mules, mechanical looms, etc.— functioned as capital equipment in the pro­ duction of food (raw grain, flour), clothing, and home furnishings (cotton or wool textiles, boots and shoes), for which demand had increased as the household economy gave way to an increasingly urban labor market and money incomes came to define or mediate social relations. So the antebel­ lum iron industry survived, and even prospered until 18 57, not because of growing demand for rails (British manufacturers supplied the bulk of them before 18 6 1) but because the commercialization of agriculture took Consumer Goods


the form of mechanized prairie fanning and thus enforced "the birth of consumer society" in the United States. It is not possible to specify even the broad contours of consumption in this period, however much statistical studies might tell us about the gross output of consumer goods. But we can safely claim that the decade of the 1840s was the watershed between a household and a market economy, and that the increasing quantity and variety of consumption expenditures in the two antebellum decades did contribute to a qualitative change in American life. A t least this was the case in the North, which ultimately imposed its new way of life on the South. Of the raw statistical materials available, per­ haps the most suggestive is the increase of "services flowing to consumers" in national income accounts. Between 1830 and 1870, this component of net national product rises from about 15 percent to almost 27 percent, reflecting not only the commodification of labor-time— the creation of a market in labor— but also the declining importance of social relations and economic transactions conducted without reference to value expressed in monetary terms and symbols. In view of the South's self-sufficiency as late as the 1850s (and its subsequent separation), the increase of the value of "services flowing to consumers" indicates the rapid growth of northern markets in and for specialized labor skills. This increase is consistent with the enlarged use of paper money before the war: in 1846, the volume of banknotes in circulation was about the same as it had been in 1839 and was lower than it had been in 18 37 ; by 1857, that volume had doubled.11 Meanwhile, the real wages of the employed labor force on the farms and in the cities were increasing in the 1850s, but particularly for nonfarm workers. For the period 1840-60, there is related evidence to suggest that the proportion of earnings spent on the "bare necessities" of food and shelter declined sharply, even though the reconstruction of the residential land­ scape— in both the towns and the countryside— was specific to the 1850s. This new distribution of expenditure was due in part to the total collapse of the supply of household-produced clothing by the late 1840s or early 1850s, which augmented the demand for "ready-made" clothes accordingly. In that sense, the quantity of consumer expenditures increased insofar as the avail­ ability of goods and services came to be determined by, but also reduced to, what the market could accommodate in the form of commodities. Even so, the quantity and variety of consumer goods available through the market economy did increase enormously after the m id-i840s.u That increase multiplied the imaginable passages between present and future precisely because these goods were commodities that necessarily had more than local meanings or particular use values: their profusion com­


Consumer Goods

plicated and enlarged the perceptible relation between the interior and the exterior of the self— the unstable frontier on which patent medicines, that most modern of consumer goods, suddenly flourished in the 1850s— espe­ cially since the production of the self and the production of goods no longer converged in the patriarchal household. The revolution in domestic archi­ tecture at midcentury, which fed on and into the boom in the consumer goods sector by providing the setting for a greater density of durable familial goods, was animated by this new sense of permeability, this new confusion of inner and outer spheres. It did not so much reflect a sentimental "cult of domesticity" as it suggested that the boundary between the home and the widening world of the market had become more porous, more fluid, more open to question and reconsideration.13

The Politics o f Continental Industrialization B y the 1850s, North America had, then, reached a verge that qualifies as its first industrial divide. In effect, the choice was between metropolitan and continental industrialization. The related choices were clearly drawn by 18 57 or 1858 because the leadership of the new Republican Party had made slavery the central issue in political debates at the national level— and thus had foreclosed any change in federal economic policy that was not articu­ lated in terms of that issue. This realignment of American political discourse tends, therefore, to obscure the inner civil war between the mercantile elite of the seaboard cities and the new entrepreneurs of the trans-Allegheny industrial towns who were trying in every sense to capitalize their concerns. For the centrality of slavery in the politics of the 1850s makes the debates over developmental strategy in the North seem insignificant by comparison to the larger conflict between North and South. But it is in the context of these debates that most Republican leaders went beyond criticism of the "Slave Power" and offered a positive alternative to further expansion of the Atlantic economy— an economy predicated on the export of agricul­ tural raw materials and the import, mainly from the United Kingdom, of manufactured goods— in which both southern slaveholders and northeast­ ern merchants had a vested interest. It is in the same context that we can begin to assess the effects of economic policy on the path of U .S. economic growth; it is here, in other words, that we can grasp "the rise in the rate of investment" as the product of social and political purpose, not an accident of economic history. The difference between the Republican platforms of 1856 and i860 sugConsumer Goods


gests the nature of the alternative in the making. In 1856, the fam iliar "no extension" slogan was the entire platform on which John C. Frémont ran for president. In i860, the party cast a wider net hy adding several demands that appealed directly to the new "agro-industrial complex" that had come of age in the 1850s. These planks were supposed to swing Pennsylvania, which the party had lost to James Buchanan or Millard Fillmore in 1856, hut also the Great Lakes states, which, in view of Stephen A . Douglas's popularity on the middle border, could not be carried simply by putting a "western moderate" on the ticket. The key demands in the new platform were for a protective tariff, federal aid to transcontinental railroads (and other "internal improvements"), and a homestead bill based on preemption. Taken together, these demands would reverse the trend of federal economic policy since 18 33 ; more immediately, they would reverse the policies of the Buchanan administration, which had supported the "free-trade" tar­ iff of 18 57, vetoed several homestead bills, and tied legislation on railroad rights-of-way to the constitutional protection of slavery in all territories. In effect, then, the Republican platform promised to prevent the impending encirclement of the northern states and to create a continental market on the legal-constitutional basis of free labor— but also to change the sectional and social sources of political-economic power in the North by subsidizing the emerging agro-industrial complex as against the "moneyed capitalists" of the seaboard cities, whose regime required free trade as well as the further expansion of the South's labor system and agricultural output. Abraham Lincoln, that "western moderate," certainly understood the political crisis of the 1850s, and the Republican Party's mission, in exactly these terms. His "House Divided" speech of 1858, for example, dwells on the fact that the legal-constitutional groundwork of encirclement was already laid, in the form of the Dred Scott decision. In his speeches of 1856 on behalf of Frémont, moreover, he treated the disposition of the territories as both a moral and a political-economic problem. "Have we no interest in the free Territories of the United States— that they should be kept open for the homes of free white people? As our Northern States are growing more and more in wealth and population, we are continually in want of an outlet, through which it [sic] may pass out to enrich our country. In this we have an interest— a deep and abiding interest." The meaning of growth that Lincoln conveys here is not simply spatial or territorial; it is economic in a strictly modern sense. So the expansion of the agricultural sector— this is no frontier he has in mind— functions not merely as a "safety valve" for surplus population, but as a field of investment and a source of demand,


Consumer Goods

without which the political economy of the North, including the settled states, would wither.14 The link between Lincoln's criticism of the status quo ante and his com­ mitment to the positive alternative in the platform of i860 was a notion of "productive labor" that he shared with Republicans such as Henry C. Carey, the influential economist, and William D. "Pig Iron" Kelley, the self-made attorney, judge, and congressman. "Productive labor," by their account, was labor that produced new value, or added value to natural or unfinished materials, and thus created the wealth (or the surplus) by which the possibilities of social mobility and future growth were realized. The merchant and the slaveholder were accordingly and equally parasites on productive labor— they consumed without creating or adding value. They appropriated or transferred wealth in the form of revenue from the sale of commodities they had no part in producing. Carey insisted, therefore, that "with every diminution in the quantity of the machinery of exchange, wealth w ill still more rapidly increase." In such terms, consumption was authorized by production: one's right to appropriate the fruits of labor as such presupposed one's own expenditure of labor-power in the production of commodities, because no individual had the right to consume the fruits of another's labor unless that other had somehow relinquished his or her natural right to them.15 From this standpoint, the impending "union between the slave capital­ ists of the South and the moneyed capitalists of the North," announced by Horace Greeley, was a logical and fitting collaboration between social classes with a vested interest in an Atlantic economy. For each set of "capitalists" was a "heavy pensioner" on productive labor, Lincoln claimed. The profits of the northern merchant who organized the distribution of finished manu­ factures that could (eventually) be produced with equal or less amounts of American labor were as much a "heavy burden upon the useful labor con­ nected [with] such articles" as were the costs of supporting the slaveholders' ostentation. Neither kind of burden could be tolerated by a political coali­ tion that assumed the proper end of government was, as Lincoln put it, "to secure to each laborer the whole product of his labor." The blueprint for modern America outlined in the Republican platform of i860 (and enacted thereafter) was, then, the programmatic form of an ideology or develop­ mental strategy designed to save, in every sense, the costs of commodity circulation, and to reduce the corresponding margin of consumption ac­ cruing to "moneyed capitalists" and slaveholders. The pivotal role of the protective tariff in the platform and rhetoric of i860 becomes explicable in

Consumer Goods


these terms: it was the critical device through which the resources hitherto consumed by the managers and beneficiaries of an Atlantic economy would be diverted to and invested in a home market.16 Most influential merchants and commercial bankers of the North under­ stood the Republican threat to their hegemony quite as well as the leading slaveholders of the South did. These "gentlemen of property and standing" knew that federal policy oriented toward the reciprocal expansion of prairie agriculture and heavy industries would fundamentally alter the sectional and social sources of power in the United States. For such a policy would re­ duce the volume and the value of raw material exports and of manufactured imports, and thus would tend to reduce the incomes and demean the func­ tions of established merchants and commercial bankers, especially those in the eastern seaboard cities.17 Until 1866, therefore, these men actively opposed the Republican program with remarkable unanimity. The response of northern merchant capital to the economic legislation of C ivil War Congresses provides forceful illustration of its stance toward the new developmental strategy. The suspension of specie payments in Decem­ ber 18 6 1 by the major banks of New York was, as the historian Leonard Curry suggests, "a declaration of their unwillingness to support the govern­ ment's financial policy." By then, however, the banks' refusal to continue purchasing (or trying to sell) the government's notes at par gold prices was part of the mercantile elite's broader resistance to Republican eco­ nomic policy as such. The commercial and financial leaders of New York had already given notice that they would ally with New England textile manu­ facturers against a protective tariff. In 1862-63, with support from their counterparts in Boston and Philadelphia, they would denounce the legal tender acts, which powerfully reinforced the new tariff's protection of heavy industries by devaluing the U.S. currency vis-à-vis gold, and the National Banking Act, which threatened to undercut the financial supremacy of the seaboard cities, or at least to change the economic criteria of bankers and banking.18 This is not to suggest that northern merchant capital was unanimous in its support for the Democracy or inflexible in its opposition to the non­ m ilitary legislation of Civil War Congresses. In fact, the ideological conflict over developmental strategy was played out within the Republican coali­ tion as well as between the two parties. Radical Republicans and western "moderates" were likely to be articulate supporters of the new, continentalindustrial strategy, whereas conservative Republicans and eastern moder­ ates were likely to be suspicious of it. Eastern moderates were by and large more sympathetic and susceptible to the appeals of established merchants


Consumer Goods

and commercial bankers than were their western counterparts; so they accepted the new strategy piecemeal, only as each of its legislative compo­ nents became a necessary means of prosecuting war against the South.19 The eastern moderates' mercantile constituency did not give up so quickly. In 1865 and 1866, the commercial and financial leaders of the seaboard cities hailed Andrew Johnson's plans for a speedy restoration of the South, urged Congress to lower or abolish the new tariffs, and supported the Treasury De­ partment's determined contraction of the outstanding legal tenders. They clung, for the moment, to a developmental strategy founded on American (re)integration into an Atlantic economy, which required the resumption of cotton exports, lower tariffs, and monetary stability founded on the inter­ national gold-exchange standard.20 But the mercantile elite was not immune to the forces that were trans­ form ing both the Republican coalition and the larger society. Indeed, the revolutionary political-economic changes wrought by Civil War and Recon­ struction eventually undermined the older elite's commitment to an Atlantic economy, and finally led it to embrace the new developmental strategy out­ lined by increasingly radical Republican Congresses. This social-ideological realignment made allies of the erstwhile mercantile elite and the new corps of industrial entrepreneurs that came of age after i860; it was the turning point in the making of a new bourgeois ethic that sanctioned not "produc­ tive labor" but capital accumulation in an industrial mode. In other words, it signified the abdication of merchant capital. The political-economic changes that made this realignment possible are fam iliar enough to historians and economists. The unprecedented experi­ ment known as Reconstruction, which began in earnest in 1863, was perhaps the most important, for not even men of large capital accustomed to com­ mercial uses for that capital could avoid cultivating western markets and investment outlets so long as Congress kept the South out of the Union.21 Positive incentives to this shift in investment patterns came, of course, in the form of the Homestead Act (1862) and subsidies to railroads (begin­ ning in 1864). Such legislation made continental industrialization a realistic business proposition. The fiscal and monetary aspects of the Republicans' revolution enforced and ultim ately validated that momentous shift. The interest-bearing fed­ eral debt that was necessary to finance total war against the South probably slowed capital formation between i860 and 1865. But the retirement of that debt after 1865 rapidly redistributed national income toward large propertyholders on a massive scale; the protective tariff and the larger tax system meanwhile encouraged the flow of these savings into industrial production, Consumer Goods


(or their effect was to dramatically reduce the price of producers' durables— that is, capital goods— vis-à-vis finished manufactured goods. Investment in hitherto undercapitalized U.S. industries, including capital goods indus­ tries, thus became significantly more profitable than it had ever been before the war. H ighly profitable investment opportunities in such industries, and the volume of savings necessary to exploit them, appeared, then, at the very moment that the restoration of the southern market became virtually impossible.22 Moreover, federal war-debt management had already created an entirely new relationship between capital markets and domestic industries other than textiles, and so made a shift in investment patterns toward undercapi­ talized areas of manufacturing that much easier. "Before the war," Glenn Porter and Harold Livesay point out, "form al financial agencies that pooled the savings of the public at large rarely supplied capital to manufacturers outside the textile industry." Federal debt management changed this situa­ tion in two ways. First, the new national banking system, which had fiscal as well as developmental purposes, created a corps of financiers without a vested interest in the commercial possibilities of an Atlantic economy— these were men whose idea of a profitable portfolio centered on the local production and regional distribution of specialized manufactured goods, not the export of cotton or sugar and the import of finished goods from the United Kingdom. Second, manufacturers found that the certificates of in­ debtedness with which the government often paid them could be discounted for cash at local banks already accustomed to purchasing federal paper. The fiscal revolution of the Civil War had thus made capital markets the ally, if not the servant, of undercapitalized domestic industries; they were no longer merely the handmaidens of international commerce.23 That revolution also fostered the development of banking technique and institutions that could efficiently underwrite large-scale enterprise in trans­ portation and manufacturing. The innovations required to sell an unprece­ dented volume of government securities, and the enormity of the trans­ continental rail projects sponsored by Civil War Congresses, made modem investment banking— and the postwar linkage between it and large indus­ trial enterprise— both possible and necessary. The firms that dominated in­ vestment banking in 1900 were not the partnerships formed in the 1850s to sell railroad bonds through their European connections; rather, they were the firms founded or reorganized between i860 and 1870 to underwrite and refund the federal war debt, and to exploit the potential of a market in rail­ road securities (both bonds and stocks) now undergirded by the financial commitment of governments at every level.24


Consumer Goods

The monetary aspects of the Republicans' revolution were equally impor­ tant in redefining the methods and objects of American business enterprise. To begin with, the issue of $450 million in legal tender notes enforced the protective effects of the tariff by creating a "premium" on gold— by making the money of account in international trade more expensive in terms of U .S. currency. The greenbacks were, then, especially popular among sm all entrepreneurs in general and undercapitalized manufacturers in par­ ticular, not least because the injection of the greenbacks into the North's money supply destroyed the merchant-dominated financial system that had constrained the expansion of heavy industries before the war. Domestic business shifted to a cash basis in late 1862 because, as a contemporary observer put it, "the fluctuating value of the depreciated currency made long credits quite hazardous." Undercapitalized industries such as iron and steel received a substantial boost once this transition was completed, for working capital could now be supplied almost immediately from cash sales, and new construction could be undertaken without recourse to loans from merchant-wholesalers.25 In sum, then, each aspect of the Republicans' revolution contributed to the redistribution of national income and investment toward those domes­ tic industries that, unlike textiles, had hitherto received little or no special attention and subsidies from the federal government. The ideological re­ alignment or abdication of merchant capital— its acceptance and advocacy of a developmental strategy oriented toward continental industrialization— was, in this sense, one more consequence of Civil War and Reconstruction. That realignment may now be traced against the background of conflict over postwar monetary policy. We have already seen that, in 1866, the leadership of the seaboard's commercial-financial community favored resto­ ration (not reconstruction) of the South, tariff reduction, and contraction of the greenbacks, so that interconvertibility between gold and U .S. currency (specie payments) could be resumed— so that the American economy could be reintegrated into an Atlantic economy. By late 1867, this consensus had begun to dissolve as the exigencies of economic crisis and the opportunities of lucrative investment in the "great and growing W est" combined to make the mercantile elite's rationale for resumption and restoration less plau­ sible. Eastern investment bankers involved in railroad and/or federal bond promotion were among the first to dissent. For example, Jay Cooke, Henry Clews, and John J. Cisco reversed their stand on greenback contraction and resumption of gold payments between 1866 and 1867. For that matter, so did most New England and Middle State Republicans in Congress, who were falling into line behind their midwestern colleagues.26 But these eastern Consumer Goods


moderates in Congress were soon followed by a m ajority of the mercantile elite. By 1870, the mercantile consensus of 1866 had all but disappeared in a wave of enthusiasm for the developmental effects of fiat money. The best evidence of this realignment is found in the deliberations of the New York Chamber of Commerce and the National Board of Trade. In 1868, the New York Chamber noted, "The inconveniences of a depre­ ciated currency are most seriously felt on the seaboard, and the restraints and losses incidental to an abnormal condition of our foreign exchanges are most patent to those who are brought in contact with the pecuniary sys­ tems of England and continental Europe." The accompanying resolution in favor of greenback contraction and resumption of gold payments assumed the propriety of restoring the status quo ante bellum, which was necessarily predicated, according to merchant capital, on the expansion of European markets for agricultural raw materials and the expansion of American mar­ kets for manufactured imports. The National Board of Trade, which Irwin Unger claims was "the nearest thing to a country-wide gauge of commercial attitudes," endorsed similar resolutions in 1868 and in 1869. In 1870, how­ ever, both the New York Chamber and the National Board of Trade defeated resolutions endorsing contraction and its corollaries.27 Simeon B. Chittenden, who was among the most prominent and influen­ tial of the seaboard's merchant capitalists— and who, not incidentally, sup­ ported greenback contraction and gold payments resumption until 1870— based his new opposition to contraction on what he saw as the promise of continental-industrial development, which had been realized almost over­ night, it seems, in the immediate aftermath of the war itself. "Had we resumed [in 1866] we should not have had the great development of rail­ roads which has come as an incident to our paper money, and which may yet prove, contrary to all history, that a great war and paper money may possibly be a great blessing [and] that the magnificent development of our country was an incident of the great rebellion and of the prodigious amount of paper which consequently circulated through the country." It can be argued, of course, that Chittenden merely suffered a brief attack of economic oppor­ tunism in 1870— that, as Unger suggests, "scruples momentarily yielded to expediency." But it is more plausible to argue that Chittenden genuinely believed that his postwar experience required the revision of his prewar out­ look, and that his revisionism was neither eccentric nor momentary. He was supported, after all, by a majority of his mercantile colleagues from New York, Baltimore, and Philadelphia— the very men who had been denounc­ ing the greenbacks and their effects since the end of the war. It is more plausible, in other words, to interpret Chittenden's conversion as part of the


Consumer Goods

broader realignment of the seaboard's mercantile elite, through which mer­ chant capital signified its acceptance of the developmental strategy residing in nonmilitary legislation of the 1860s and its willingness to abandon an Atlantic economy in favor of continental industrialization.2* The abdication of merchant capital meant that the antagonistic social classes that had contended for control of federal economic policy between 18 57 and 1870 could now begin to identify their common interests as dif­ ferent functional elements of a capitalist class, as against other social classes in the making. This was a peculiarly fortuitous event for the Republi­ can Party, because it coincided with and compensated for the Democracy's "N ew Departure" of 18 7 1, which, by acknowledging the legitimacy of the Reconstruction Amendments, allowed Democrats to recruit certain frag­ ments of what had been solidly Republican constituencies in the North (e.g., native-born urban laborers, prairie farmers). By the early 1870s, these once-reliable Republican partisans were ready to believe local or state politicians who argued that the legislation of the war decade had transferred income and wealth from the majority of the working population— from the people who had fought the war— to the minority that was interested only in acquiring more income and wealth.29 They had good reasons to believe this argument, which radical Republi­ cans as well as midwestem Democrats pursued as political doctrine through the 1870s. For the "incomes of the savers" were in fact significantly in­ creased between 1850 and 1870, apparently at the expense of the working population's share of national income, and certainly at the expense of its ability to make its demands effective through labor organization or collec­ tive action. What the Republicans' working-class constituencies objected to, in other words, was "the rise in the rate of investment" made possible by nonmilitary legislation of the 1860s— not because they were ignorant of the requirements of economic growth or envious of the men of capital, but because they understood that the transfer of income enforced by the new economic policies threatened to concentrate social power in the hands of capital(ists) and to foreclose the possibility of social mobility for wage earners. They understood, in short, that the emergence of class society threatened republican politics and popular government. Now "the rise in the rate of investment" and the corresponding shift in income shares on which it was predicated over the period 18 50 -70 are not matters of controversy among economists. Robert Gallman's widely used estimates of the ratio of gross domestic capital formation (GDCF) to gross domestic product (GDP) show an increase of about 40 percent be­ tween 1849-58 and 1869-78. Simon Kuznets's earlier estimates suggest Consumer Goods


that GDCF was 2 1.6 percent of gross national product (GNP) in the latter decade and almost 19 percent of GDP, a rate never subsequently equaled. For my purposes, it is even more significant that the internal composition of investment as such also changed drastically. According to Gallman and others, the share of manufactured producers' durables in net investment— or the constant price share of producers' durables investment in GDCF— more than doubled between the m id-i85os and the late 1870s. Here is how Gallman himself characterizes this new composition: "Investment in durables increased relative to investment in improvements, and the move­ ment appears to be very general, affecting all the main industrial sectors. . . suggesting that the supply schedules for these goods must have been shift­ ing outward with unusual speed, presumably due to exceptionally fruitful technical innovation, improved material supplies, or the like (e.g. improved supplies of machine tools)." Meanwhile, that is, between 1850 and 1870 , the share of wages and salaries in the value of net output fell 12 percent, even though the number of gainful workers increased 37 percent. The broader trend toward sharply higher real yields on equity capital and government bonds, ca. 1867-78, suggests the same underlying shift of income shares, which in turn allowed much higher investment rates because it raised the "incomes of the savers."30 In the absence of incentives to investment in heavy industries— in metal mining as well as metalworking industries— the increase of potential de­ mand for producers' durables represented by this rise in the "incomes of the savers" would not have been realized in the form of continental in­ dustrialization. But in fact the "priority of Department I" was inscribed in the economic policies— particularly the tariff— sanctioned by the victors in the inner civil war, whose developmental strategy required a break from the Atlantic economy. Accordingly, demand for capital goods would not be derived from, or limited by, metropolitan industrialization, that is, from or by the growth of consumer goods industries in the seaboard cities on the social basis of handicraft and petty manufacture. Instead, demand for con­ sumer goods would increasingly be driven by expanded output of capital goods. In this sense, the reversal in the original relation between the con­ sumer goods and the capital goods sectors centered critically in, and was a crucial consequence of, the epoch of Civil War and Reconstruction.


Consumer Goods

Production and Consumption as Political Culture And yet the political-economic record of the late nineteenth century does not conform to the quasi-teleological accounts of those historians who render the period in terms of the reign of the robber barons, the rise of big business, or the inevitable demise of popular politics. In other words, the "priority of Department I" was inscribed in the radical shifts of eco­ nomic policy and income shares, ca. 1857-70 , but the future was not there­ fore or thereby overdetermined. Accumulation did proceed, of course, and did entail the restriction of consumption expenditures as against saving and investment; but it proceeded fitfully and cyclically, in accordance with the changing balance of class power and the corresponding distribution of income between investment and consumption, that is, between capital and labor. The capitalist class born in the inner civil war tried desperately in the late nineteenth century to maintain the distribution of income specific to the moment of its birth and understood, by the 1880s, that this task required its acquisition of political and cultural authority as well as the formaliza­ tion of its economic prerogatives. Meanwhile, the working classes tried with no little success to change that distribution of income by acting on two related claims. First, the meaning of labor was not comprehended by the categories of political economy; by the same token, the social roles and political obligations of members of the working class could not be wholly determined by their economic functions or occupations. Second, and con­ sequently, their incomes and social standing— their standard of living— could not properly be defined by the technical requirements of economic growth as these were gauged by capitalists and their allies. In effect, then, the deepening contradiction between production and consumption became the pivot of political and cultural conflict between capital and labor. Since this conflict both registered and determined the distribution of income, and was not resolved one way or another until about 1900, it is immediately relevant to understanding the rate and contours of accumulation in the late nineteenth century. From the standpoint of capital, the period was more nightmare than golden age. According to informed and influential observers of the economic scene as well as the business press, the cycles of 18 73-9 7 constituted one long depression in which prices and profits moved consistently downward, in the opposite direction of money and real wages. By 1890, the distribu­ tion of income between capital and labor had become a virtual obsession of

Consumer Goods


both capitalists and economists— indeed by then the problem of distribu­ tion, which was typically expressed in the juxtaposition of "progress and poverty," dominated the political imagination of all social classes and strata, including the proprietary middle class on the farms and in the cities. None of them seemed satisfied with its share of national income. But we should not dismiss the complaints of capitalists as the product of "money illusion," through which they confused falling prices and lower profits, or as the poormouthing propaganda of robber barons. For the trends of real wages and labor productivity in the nonfarm sector did diverge from the early 1880s until the m id-i890S and did, therefore, reduce capital's share of nonfarm income— and this at the very moment that growing competitive pressures demanded greater investment in fixed capital as the condition of retaining market share through lower unit costs and prices. The obvious solutions to the problem of distribution so conceived were to increase labor productivity by reconstructing and mechanizing the labor process (thus to increase output and revenues vis-à-vis the wage bill); to bring supply into line with effective demand by limiting output (thus to raise prices and presumably profits vis-à-vis wages); or simply to reduce wages. But these solutions were not available to capitalists in the period because each presupposed either the solidarity of capital or the weakness of labor. To limit output in the name of reasonable returns on investment, for example, required the kind of interfirm cooperation that was illegal or impossible in an era of juridical confusion in regard to the rights of property, of popular antipathy to concentrated economic power, and of falling prices enforced by fierce competition. But to reconstruct and mechanize the labor process or to reduce wages was equally difficult, if not impossible, at least in the 1880$ and the early 1890s. A t the level of the firm, skilled workers' control of the division of labor and rates of output was enforced by employers' igno­ rance of what actually happened on the shop floor; when employers tried to remedy their ignorance by introducing new machines and reshaping work rules, they often faced resistance in the form of strikes that united not only the skilled and the unskilled but also local officials, editors, shopkeepers, and sympathetic workers in other trades. Sim ilar results were produced by wage cuts, particularly after 1884. So there was no microeconomic solution to the problem of distribution as capital itself had defined it. For any initiative at the level of the firm immediately implicated populations that invoked extra­ local political loyalties and languages to deny or question the legitim acy of large capital.31 The distribution of income between profits and wages or investment and consumption was, then, a political and cultural issue as well as a macro­


Consumer Goods

economic puzzle. "The contests of interest between capitalists and laborers are intensified by counter-claims in equity/' the economist John Bates Clark explained in 1887, "and the problem thrust upon society is not merely how to divide a sum, but how to adjust rights and obligations." Certainly the "producing classes" understood it in these terms. They adapted the lan­ guage once directed at merchants and slaveholders to identify capitalists as parasites on the body politic, as those who produced nothing and yet who controlled and consumed a disproportionate share of the products of labor. But their criticism of capitalists, and for that matter of capitalism, did not entail a rejection of commodity production and circulation— that is, of the market in goods to which their labor and incomes gave them access. Their political ideology and programs were not compromised as a result; in fact they were sharpened by commitment to the "self-regulating" or simple market society valorized by the American political tradition.32 In this sense, the plebeian or popular culture created by the "producing classes" was com­ mercial (ized) long before Coney Island became its modern emblem. But it was not animated by acknowledgment of a disjuncture between produc­ tion and consumption. To see how and why this was $0, we need to retrace the relation between the political culture of the nineteenth-century United States and the grievances of the "producing classes." To begin with, we should note the uncanny coherence of such griev­ ances. Between the 1870s and the turn of the century, "jacldeg" farmers, industrial workers, small entrepreneurs, and even certain proprietary capi­ talists used the same inherited language of "productive labor" to argue that consumption was authorized only by production— in other words, one's receipt and expenditure of income required one's production of real value through work. Any division of labor that separated these social functions was a betrayal of republican politics and popular government because it pre­ supposed hierarchy and privilege. By this account, the division of mental and manual labor, which capitalists cited to justify their incomes and to ex­ plain the need for managerial control of a mechanized labor process, merely accommodated the unjust asymmetry of social power that enabled capitalist appropriation of the products of labor, or consumption without production. It was intolerable precisely because it recalled and reconstituted the premodern specification of the relation between necessity and freedom, which the "Slave Power" had tried to reinstate at midcentury. Until the advent of modernity in the form of market society, ca. 14 5 0 1650, that relation was invariably construed as a fundamental contradiction. Those people immersed in the production of goods, in the realm of neces­ sity, could not be free, for if they worked, they did so at another's behest: Consumer Goods


they were by definition slaves or serfs. Consumption or control of goods beyond what was necessary to sustain life as such was the insignia, then, of the free man or citizen who did not produce those goods. So, too, was the life of the mind— only men free of the claims of necessity could be phi­ losophers or priests. The practical and the aesthetic accordingly identified different levels of social life as well as different orders of truth and rheto­ ric.33 The collapse of these distinctions or divisions— of this contradiction— was one result of the great bourgeois revolutions of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The citizens of bourgeois society defined themselves as free and fit to rule because they worked on and produced the material conditions of their new world. In their view, the realms of freedom and necessity intersected in that bustling area of life they learned to call "civil society"— the new social space opened up between the paradigmatic realms of power or coercion, the state and the family. Those who consumed with­ out producing were parasites on civil society, on those who, by m ixing their labor with their property, made it productive and themselves free. So the functional separation of production and consumption by social class or rank was dangerous at best. The life of the mind, as a corollary of this socialfunctional separation, was sim ilarly problematic. But the cultural standards or values of bourgeois society as it emerged in England and North America were more or less mechanical. To that extent, they abolished the rhetorical distinction between the practical and the aesthetic (or the useful and the beautiful), and repudiated the social differentiation it ratified; to the same extent, the life of the mind did not represent an immediate threat to the vitality of civil society.34 The perceived unity or interpenetration of necessity and freedom, pro­ duction and consumption, the practical and the aesthetic, was nowhere more pronounced than in the culture of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century North Am erica; for it was the extremity in every sense of bourgeois society.35 Hence the articulation of a division of manual and mental labor, in fact and as value, was nowhere more difficult. The typically American fear of "middlemen," bureaucrats, bankers, lawyers, and all other forms of apparently unproductive mental labor ultimately derives from the as­ sumption that they consume the wealth created by productive labor. In the nineteenth century, this fear extended to, or rather focused on, capi­ talists, the modern-industrial version of a many-layered aristocracy that consumed and controlled wealth without producing anything. "The capi­ talist performs no productive labor himself," a striking telegraph operator explained to a Senate committee in 1883. A young machinist who testified before the same committee was more pointed: "Jay Gould never earned a


Consumer Goods

great deal, but he owns a terrible lot." Capitalists somehow invaded and in­ verted the proper relationship between personality and property by making the personalities of producers the means to the unlimited accumulation of property. They accordingly destroyed the intersection of freedom and ne­ cessity in civil society by creating and dominating a mass of propertyless workers, a class of "wage slaves" or "industrial serfs" which had only its manual dexterity to sell in the labor market.36 This at any rate was the view of those Americans who interpreted their world and unconsciously narrated their futures in terms of the republi­ can tradition sanctified by Civil War and Reconstruction. In denying the legitim acy of a division of mental and manual labor, they were denying the legitim acy of the social differentiation— the inequality— it presupposed. They were also protesting the consequent dissolution of the nexus between property in productive labor and self-determining personality, which had served as the groundwork of bourgeois political theory and practice since the seventeenth century. If they did not constitute a majority, it is diffi­ cult to explain much of the legislation, jurisprudence, and political language of the late nineteenth century. But their numbers almost did not matter, for the same republican tradition weighed like a nightmare on the minds of their opponents.37 Certainly it offered no idiom in which to explain or ju stify unilateral capitalist control of production, and so to make capital's claim to a share of national income effective. The power and authority of large capital, whether at the point of production, at the law, or in the larger society, would be derisively limited, therefore, until the republican tradition was supplanted as the political culture of the United States, or at least until it was acknowledged but contained by an alternative. For their part, the men of large capital clearly understood the area of their culture to be a small and fragmented part of the linguistic territory they shared with their social inferiors. In the 1880s, most of that territory seemed positively foreign, an unexplored and inexplicable dark continent residing within the nation yet reaching beyond the capacities of a language that still could not reconcile "urban masses and moral order." Hence the fearful hyperbole of most upper-class pronouncements on the lower classes. But the fear was greater than mere ignorance of that Other could produce. For the possibility of reconciling "urban masses and moral order" presup­ posed an agent of moral order— or cultural authority— that was external to the masses. "M oral reform must come from the top," Carroll D. W right, the esteemed commissioner of labor from Massachusetts, explained to the Senate Committee on Labor and Education in 1883. Yet capitalists seemed to have no sense of collectivity or solidarity, no lived culture of their own Consumer Goods


that would allow them to see themselves and act as the purposeful agents or exemplars of moral order, of cultural authority. For until the 1880s, they were in fact divided by economic interest and function, and by a fiercely competitive or individualistic ethic that fit the circumstances and explained the imperatives of business enterprise only too well. So they would have to rehabilitate themselves, in effect begin to constitute themselves as a social class, before they could recognize and depict themselves as a potential source of cultural integration— before they could articulate an alternative to what seemed the impending hegemony of the lower classes.3* From this standpoint, the "turn of the wheel" that economists date from the late 1890s— the sudden increase in growth rates, labor productivity, prices, and profits— was predicated on the reorientation of American cul­ ture, which consolidated the area of "high culture" to the point where its creators could begin to explore and to reclaim the territory inhabited by the lower classes. The reorientation of American culture in that sense began in earnest in the late 1880s, when the new men of capital in the nation's largest cities first tried to redefine the moral sensibilities of the urban masses and thus to create a new, educational relationship between upper and lower classes. In creating this new relationship, they realized that insofar as their latent social power did not take the form of cultural authority, but was instead exercised only as paramilitary force, the lower classes would not accept that social power as legitimate. Lyman Gage, the president of Chi­ cago's First National Bank (who would in 1897 become William M cKinley's secretary of the treasury) explained, for example, that the anarchy and the violence of 1886 were cause for rethinking these critical matters: "The facts led me and others of like mind to consider whether repression by force ought not to be supplemented by moral methods." Such methods centered on the endowment and establishment of new cultural institutions and events— museums, research libraries, universities, orchestras, exhibi­ tions, civic bodies, and fairs. Chicago was accordingly transformed between the m id-i88os and the m id-i890s by a small group of railroad executives, bankers, publishers, merchants, and corporate lawyers which invented the A rt Institute, the Symphony Orchestra, the University of Chicago, the Field Museum, the Newberry Library, and the Columbian Exposition.39 These institutions were representations of a hidden text or unspoken lan­ guage that identified the high arts and imposing artifacts of the Old World as the inheritance of modern American capitalists. The enormous mass, classical balance, and vast interior spaces of the buildings that contained the emblems of the Old World's cultural tradition challenged— and were meant to challenge— the unruliness of the city's streets: they announced an


Consumer Goods

alternative to the class conflict, partisan division, and incessant strife that characterized the New World. But the men of capital did not recall a spe­ cific segment of the European past as a way of rejecting or escaping from modern-industrial civilization in North America; in other words, the im ­ pulse to violate the ordinary scale and reshape the everyday sensibilities of the urban scene was not "antimodern." It was a way of evoking the sources or possibilities of social unity on the unlikely site of modernity itself; it proposed and ratified a new urban-industrial order, an impending future, in which capitalists were the legitimate heirs to the "high tradition" of western Europe and thus, at least by implication, to "civilization" as such.40 Perhaps because he did not experience it as it happened, Henry James understood this process better than anyone else; at any rate he was w illing, in The American Scene, to offer a close reading of the texts he found in the changed urban landscape. For he assumed that all the "recent expensive construction. . . had cost thought as well as money, that [it] had taken birth presumably as a serious demonstration" of something. And he saw that the "frontage and cornice and architrave" reproduced from European models were reconstituted in the New World to tell the "great cold calculated story" of modernity, not medievalism.41 The moral of that story apparently could be discovered in any of the "Palladian piles" that seemed to have erupted in the nation's largest dty. But it was particularly obvious in New York's "palace of art," the Metropolitan Museum, a cultural institution rebuilt and in effect refounded by the city's business leaders between the m id-i88os and the late 1890s. "Education, clearly, was going to seat herself in these marble halls— admirably prepared for her, to all appearances— and issue her instructions without regard to cost." Here the story of modernity was told in a manner that somehow consecrated the losses its dramatis personae had suffered. "It is a palace of art, truly, that sits there on the edge of the Park, rearing itself with a radiance. . . . It spoke with a hundred voices of that huge process of historic waste that the place in general keeps putting before you; but showing it a light that drew out the harshness or the sad­ ness, the pang, whatever it had seemed elsewhere, of the reiterated sacrifice to pecuniary profit. For the question here was to be of the advantage to the spirit, not to the pocket; to be of the aesthetic advantage involved in the wonderful clearance to come." But how did the museum convey this extraordinary impression to some­ one who, like most Americans, was not disposed to believe that great wealth conferred ability or legitimacy on its holder? James thought it succeeded be­ cause it boldly claimed that the "reiterated sacrifice to pecuniary profit," the ever larger accumulations of capital, even the grotesque "grope of wealth" Consumer Goods


he ridiculed, were the necessary conditions of a more generous, a more civi­ lized American future: "There was money in the air, ever so much money— that was, grossly expressed, the sense of the whole intimation. And the money was to be for all the most exquisite things— for all the most ex­ quisite except creation, which was to be kept off the scene altogether; for art, selection, criticism, for knowledge, piety, taste. The intimation— which was somehow, after all, so (minted— would have been detestable if interests other, and smaller, than these had been in question."42 In terms of American culture, this was a new idea of progress; for if it did not celebrate accumulation as an end in itself, it did define money as some­ thing more than a means of exchange— in the "palace of art," it became both signifier and signified— and did suggest that the men who had grasped its mysteries and controlled its sources were, after all, the agents of progress toward the jubilee that would be advertised, on the eve of the apocalypse, as the last clearance sale ever. More to the point, to define money in this way was to suggest that production and consumption were not immedi­ ately or necessarily connected. James said as much when he emphasized that creation "was to be kept off the scene altogether." The "high culture" the new institutions mapped was, then, a territory from which the facts of production had been banished, a realm of life already so complete that imagining how to live in or to create it was out of the question, even for its creators; passive contemplation or consumption of it was the only appropriate response. To see the physical artifacts this museum culture enclosed in silence as products of past labor that combined manual dexterity and mental skills was virtually impossible. They appeared to be, and in effect became, the products of the wealthy donors whose names were a prominent feature of the ubiquitous labels that defined the artifacts as such. In this sense, the new cultural institutions codified a break between the practical and the aesthetic by celebrating a division of manual and men­ tal labor— by removing production from the scene of knowledge, piety, and taste. In the same sense, they represented a break from the political culture that insisted these dimensions of social life were indissoluble. To the extent that culture per se became what the new men of capital claimed it was— the life of the consuming aesthete, not the life of productive labor— maintain­ ing the unity of craft knowledge and craft skill at the point of production became a form of nostalgia. But so, too, did insisting on the integrity of productive labor and personality, of necessity and freedom, or of production and consumption.43 From our standpoint in the late twentieth century, we can see clearly that American culture never has become what the new men of capital claimed it


Consumer Goods

was, even if we suppose that the notion of "consumer culture" describes a large part of the territory in question. For we can also see that the political culture residing in the republican tradition has never been entirely extin­ guished. It was revived in the form of syndicalism in the early twentieth century; it was rehabilitated under the auspices of the Congress of Indus­ trial Organizations and the Communist Party in the 1930s and 1940s; and in our own time it reappears in the political languages and cultural criti­ cisms of "antimodem" conservatives on the Right as well as "progressive" radicals on the Left. In this sense, the consumer culture of the twentieth century is an unstable isotope that contains trace elements of the political positions articulated in the late nineteenth century by social classes still in the process of formation. At one extreme is the position that production of value through work authorizes consumption of goods. The corollary of this position is that, as the unambiguous sign of real value embodied in com­ modities, money is merely a means of exchange, a realistic representation of objects "out there" in the "real world." At the other extreme is the position that consumption needs no authorization by production of value through work unless both value and work are so broadly defined that they lose the connotations conferred on them by wage labor under the regime of capital accumulation. The corollary of this position is that money is a floating sig­ nifier that ultimately refers to or represents not objects "out there" in the "real world" but itself, or rather the self; money, like mind and language, is the sign of a sign. The difference between these positions is the political dis­ tance between the anticapitalist "producing classes" and the protocapitalist class of the late nineteenth century. The recognizably "modernist" position is of course the latter's, and should be attributed accordingly.44 But again, it does not exhaust the meanings of twentieth-century consumer culture, just as it does not regulate every aspect of modem American culture. For its opponents never proposed to abolish the market in consumer goods which revolutionized fam ily life in the late nineteenth century, and never sug­ gested that civil society, the site of commodity production and circulation, should be reabsorbed by the fam ily or controlled by the state.

Mass Consumption and Marginalist Economics If there is still a middle ground between these original positions, it was first articulated at the same moment, in the course of the late-nineteenthcentury debates that gave birth to modem economic theory in the United States. Those debates turned on the relevance of the labor theory of value Consumer Goods


under modern-industrial conditions, and, as in Europe, they led toward the break with classical political economy called the "marginalist revolution in economics." The crux of the argument based on marginalist principles was that commodities had more or less value not because they cost more or less in human labor— this is what the classical political economy had supposed— but because consumers found more or less utility in them. The value of a commodity was greater or smaller according to the state of de­ mand for it, then, not the quantity of labor-time necessary to produce it. Since less demand naturally followed from increased consumption of the same commodity, its utility would fall as its supply increased; the final or marginal unit demanded would therefore determine the utility— the value— of the entire supply.45 The marginalists assumed their first task was to discredit the labor theory of value because they understood themselves to be shifting the focus of political economy from the sphere of production to the sphere of consump­ tion, from the supply side to the demand side. Their starting point was not the social relations between individuals or functional groups engaged in producing goods but the "psychological relation between individuals and finished goods," as Ronald Meek suggested in 1957. Even so, the marginal­ ists did not deny that the category of value had social meaning and determi­ nants. To be sure, they claimed that individual or "subjective" or particular desires of consumers were more significant than quantities of social labor­ time in the determination of any commodity's value; to be more exact, they claimed that unless effective demand validated the prior expenditure of labor-power, commodities would have no value regardless of the labor­ time contained in them. In short, they argued that if production was the necessary condition of value, demand was the sufficient condition. Yet the category of effective demand did not become unwieldy or inexplicable be­ cause it appeared to be the sum of innumerable and incomparable desires. In terms of marginalist theory, every individual was a composite or social self, whose identity and desires were powerfully shaped if not wholly deter­ mined by the expectations of the others who embodied the social-cultural context in which he or she lived and worked. If pure subjectivity was there­ fore implausible, so was the related possibility that desire, and thus value as such, were purely subjective.46 In any event, the mere statement of marginalist principles suggested that production and consumption were not different aspects of the same phe­ nomenon, and so were not directly connected in theory or practice. By focusing their theory on the demand side, the marginalists were announc­ ing that the problem of supply (or production) had been solved, that the


Consumer Goods

critical issue of the times was distribution (or consumption). In doing so, they were acknowledging the evidence of late-nineteenth-century business cycles, which, as interpreted by economic theorists and businessmen alike, suggested that supply simply did not create its own demand. For my pur­ poses, however, the significant fact is that the marginalists' focus on the issues of demand and distribution represented, or implied the possibility of, a new orientation toward the working class; the habits, desires, and demands of the m ajority— in effect, mass consumption— had become the proper object of high theory. Here, too, the evidence was readily available. Influential observers of the "great depression" of the late nineteenth century, which plagued Europe as well as North America, generally agreed that the cause of falling prices was "overproduction," that is, production beyond effective or remunerative demand. The results of overproduction were not the same, however, across class lines or economic sectors. Most pro-capitalist observers emphasized that after 18 73, money and real wages had increased dramatically, especially for skilled labor in the metalworking or heavy industries, and therefore that wage earners were the principal beneficiaries of economic development under conditions approximating depression. For example, David A . Wells, who was probably the most influential of all observers of the economic scene, announced in 1890: "Profits and prices of commodities have fallen, except in a few special departments. Consequently the purchasing power of wages has risen, and this has given to the wage-earning class a greater command over the necessaries of life." Charles A. Conant, perhaps the most accomplished and prolific theoretician of modern business enterprise in the late nineteenth century, was more cautious yet more pointed. "Those laborers who continue to earn their customary wages are benefited materi­ ally in a period of low prices, because of the greatly increased purchasing power of their earnings. An industrial enterprise which continues to operate without profit or at a loss during a depression . . . transfers all its benefits, therefore, to the wage earners, and their wealth is enhanced at the expense of the owners of inherited or accumulated capital." In effect, what Wells and Conant were describing (and denouncing) was a transfer of income from capital to labor, from profits to wages— and a corresponding diversion of resources from production for production to production for consumption.47 And indeed the 1880s look in retrospect like a golden age for the con­ sumer goods industries. This was the moment at which companies such as Procter & Gamble, Libbey Foods, General M ills, Duke Tobacco, Johnson & Johnson, and Coca-Cola reorganized and adopted a "mass market" strategy predicated on high volume, low margins, new packaging, and recognizably Consumer Goods


modem advertising campaigns. It was also the moment at which visionaries such as A . Montgomery Ward and Richard Sears invented the retail mail­ order business, in the belief that they might eventually sell every im agin­ able household item C.O .D . to every household. And it was of course the moment at which the metropolitan press and the department store finally came of age; the consummation of their relationship in the 1880s, which had been impending since the 1850s, not incidentally created both jour­ nalism and advertising as we still experience them, as the situation of the scandalous or the spectacular in everyday life. The first major department stores in New York and Chicago began in the 1860s and 1870s as subsidiary enterprises in far-flung wholesale operations; but by the 1880$, the retail end had become more profitable, and founding fathers such as Marshall Field acted accordingly. Other firms that grew out of small retail opera­ tions established at midcentury (e.g., Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Abraham & Straus, Wanamaker's) did not become full-scale department stores until the 1880s or 1890s, when the reconstruction of their facades and the construc­ tion of new physical plants for larger stores— these were "palaces of art" or expositions in their own right— began in earnest.4* If we can rely on the calculations of William H. Shaw for the period 18 6 9 19 19 , the percentage increase in output of consumer durables between 1879 and 1889 is matched or exceeded only by the increase between 19 14 and 19 19 . The increase in personal and household furnishings— precisely the commodities featured by the new department stores— is especially striking. Since Shaw's figures are presented in dollar amounts, and since the 1880s was a decade of severe deflation, the increase is all the more striking. It suggests that to the familiar list of causes for the new stage of mass market­ ing reached in the 1880$, we might add the distribution of income, which validated the phenomenal growth of consumer goods industries and, to the same extent, worried those who believed that workers' "greater command of the necessaries of life" constituted a moral as well as an economic problem because it challenged the role of saving, profits, and investment in the rate and pattern of economic growth— that is, because it challenged the social functions of capital(ists).49 The new professional economists were among those who worried about the moral implications of the distribution of income; in fact their interest in the issue of distribution defined their professional activities and signified their opposition to the "old economics." Yet they were just as interested in the possibility of integrating the evidence of mass consumption into the theory of value and the discipline of political economy. For they be­ lieved that such evidence indicated a new stage of social development, one


Consumer Goods

in which the inherited antagonism between production and consumption was dissolving; to comprehend the meanings of consumption was, then, to demonstrate that political economy was the stuff of social theory as well as practical politics. If the antagonism between production and consumption was dissolving, for example, the possibility of redefining— and pacifying— the social relation between capital and labor would no longer seem quite so remote, because the wages of labor could be advertised in such terms as something more than cost of production, as something other than a threat to profits. Moreover, if value was conferred on commodities by activity that did not qualify as "production" in the political languages of American social movements (of farmers as well as workers), the obvious difficulties of rec­ onciling republicanism and modern-industrial capitalism— of integrating capitalists into the body politic— would no longer seem insurmountable. To comprehend the meanings of consumption was, then, to discover new authorization for consumption as such, whether by capital or labor; to ac­ complish that task, however, was to explain and justify the distribution of income (the condition of consumption) without recourse to the language of productive labor residing in the republican tradition. A t least this was how John Bates Clark, the leading American marginalist, conceived his intellectual agenda in the 1880s and 1890s. Like most of his colleagues among professional economists, Clark understood the popular appeal of socialism as the consequence of its close relation to the repub­ lican tradition. Indeed he called it "economic republicanism" because he believed that its creators and proponents had recast the familiar language of productive labor in terms that fit the circumstances of modem-industrial capitalism. In such perspective, the labor theory of value was m erely the formalization of a popular cultural tradition. Thus Clark also understood that the marginalist departure from this tradition narrated a passage be­ tween past, present, and future which opened onto moral reformation and social reconstruction, not class conflict and socialist revolution. But he was aware that his own departure would seem an eccentric demur unless he could show how wealth was constituted if not created by those who played no visible or active role in the production of commodities, and thus why their claim to a share of those commodities was both rational and just. So he began his first major work, The Philosophy of Wealth (1887), by announc­ ing that because existing economic theory "found no adequate place for the intellectual activities of men," it was deficient, and possibly dangerous. His task was then to rectify political economy by rehabilitating mental labor.50 In the opening chapters, Clark rejected the classical distinction between productive and unproductive labor as the source of confusion about the Consumer Goods


meaning of wealth, and repudiated the labor theory of value. His method was to replace the problem of valuation— the problem of relating quan­ tities of output and quantities of value— with the more expansive notion of utility, by claiming that wealth was a "condition of relative well-being" with no conceivable objective or transhistorical measure; as such, it could be "produced only by that which, besides satisfying wants, is capable of appropriation." Mental labor was crucial to the creation of wealth because if "one class of laborers" produced "specific useful commodities" with the attribute of utility, the other "general class" produced laws, principles, and procedures that gave objects the "attribute of appropriability," in effect by bringing them to market, or simply by naming them, as consumable com­ modities. This implicit division of society into classes with différent pro­ ductive functions was immediately obscured by Clark's repudiation of the labor theory of value on the grounds that it reduced labor to its measur­ able, manual element, and thus could not grasp the value of its "mental and moral" elements. But if readers were confused by the discursive form of the argument, its content and its object were unmistakable. "In view of the constant presence of these three elements in labor, the physical, the mental, and the moral, any effort, in the supposed interest of the working classes, to depreciate mental labor in comparison with physical is unintelligent." The republican tradition, like the working class itself, was apparently trapped in the body. A t any rate Clark suggested that both had to be modified or contained by the "higher" elements of human nature discovered and articu­ lated in "the state of actual development" which transcended the "prim itive paradise" of the physical and the natural. So modified or contained— in short, once sublimated— neither the republican tradition nor the working class would represent a threat to the further development of the larger social Clark was not proposing, then, to forget or repress the republican tra­ dition, just as he was not proposing to subjugate the working class. He was exploring the middle ground between labor and capital, trying to find an alternative to their positions on the relation between production and consumption of wealth, staking out an area that included both positions without becoming either. He secured only a foothold in The Philosophy of Wealth because his argument was more assault on than resettlement of con­ tested terrain. He did include a chapter entitled "The Law of Distribution," which promised to solve the problem of "how to justly divide the gain" in total wealth or income. But at this crucial moment, Clark reverted to the radical criticism of cutthroat competition which had become the stock-intrade of the "new economics." He did not yet have a language or a voice that


Consumer Goods

was consistent with the dispassionate or "scientific" solution he sought: his foothold was the moral high ground. It was almost as if Clark were waiting for the historical tendencies of "centralization" and "solidarity" to validate a lawful distribution of wealth. For every time he approached the original problem— "how to justly divide the gain"— he immediately veered toward discussion of the impending stage of economic development in which the organized solidarity of both capital and labor would replace or modulate the brute force of "individualistic competition," and thus provide a new basis for the distribution of wealth among legitimate claimants. The privileged place of truth he claimed was not, then, his theory of distribution, but the civilization of the future.52 Yet there were hints of the position Clark would finally establish in The Distribution of Wealth (1899); and the author himself treated the later work as the completion of the earlier. In the chapter following "The Law of Dis­ tribution," for example, he insisted that "in the primary sense of the term ," wages were a "quantity of wealth" equal to labor's share of value added in a given industry— in other words, wages equaled the distinguishable product of labor, "a payment regarded as a mass of concrete commodities of a kind adapted to the laborer's use." Here Clark was elaborating on the grand claim of the pivotal second chapter: "The law of wages, the subject of desperate controversy, is, as we shall soon see, placed in a new and clear light when one apprehends, in its full bearing, the principle that the wage of labor is the market value of its product." What he ignored, of course, was the possibility of a difference between the exchange value of labor-power construed as a commodity and the exchange value of the commodities that constituted the output of wage-laborers. But he did so because he had already dismissed the labor theory of value. His premises throughout were that the value of any commodity was determined by its "effective utility"— what we would now call "opportunity cost"— and that the addition of capital to any given mix of productive inputs would increase the output of labor ("capital" was left undefined, but its implicit meanings were both material and mental, i.e ., it could be understood as an amount of fixed capital or as the supervisory functions of capitalists).53 The question Clark could not answer in The Phi­ losophy of Wealth was how that gain of output was, or ought to be, divided between capital and labor. He tried again in The Distribution of Wealth.5* This time he assumed that adding on to the edifice of classical political economy, by illustrating the role of demand or consumption in the determination of market value, would not produce satisfying results. "The indictment that hangs over society is that of 'exploiting labor,' " Clark noted at the outset. "If this charge were Consumer Goods


proved, every right-minded man should become a socialist." To stay above the (ray— to remain in the realm of consumption— was to admit the truth of the socialist position. So the "new economics" had to include the old, not dismiss it or ignore it. "If we are to test the charge, however, we must enter the realm of production."“ Clark's entry was, then, by way of marginal productivity, not utility. In effect, he assumed that the realms of produc­ tion and consumption required different methods or categories of analysis because each operated according to unique principles. He did not drop the idea that "effective utility" determined the value of commodities. But he did attempt to explain capital as both a material input and a functional role in production, both of which could be measured in monetary terms as investment. Thus he could claim that "pure profit" was the temporary, residual gain due entrepreneurs for their organizational innovations, whereas "interest" represented the earnings of capital construed as an enduring input and the condition of secular increase in labor productivity. The marginal "product" of capital, in this sense, was the difference between the total output of a given labor force before and after investment in and installation of new plant and equipment. The increase in the marginal product of labor— and so in the wages of labor— was now theoretically dependent on the mainte­ nance of productive investment, which was itself a function of past income accruing to capital (interest).M Capital could hereafter appear as a factor of production. Far from being a parasite on productive labor, it was, according to Clark, the condition of labor's productivity and the linchpin of what we would now call total factor productivity. As such, "capital" was a figure whose income derived from a quantifiable contribution to the production of commodities; yet its func­ tion was not "productive labor" according to the republican dispensation. It was, moreover, a figure whose consumption was authorized by a "m ar­ ginal product"; and so its role was not that of the "consuming aesthete" valorized in the "new vistas of silence" which defined the high culture in­ vented by the upper class. This figure stood between the extremities of a culture in the making— but it was much more than a middleman because it seemed to synthesize the economic functions and social positions of capital and labor. It did not, then, represent a new class so much as it symbolized the possibility of an end to class conflict between capital and labor.


Consumer Goods




Economists and Cultural Critics B y any measure, Clark's achievement was extraordinary. He had defined the problem of income distribution as a fundamentally political or ideological problem and had consistently engaged it at that level, where microeconomic applications— the normal science of his emerging profession— were almost incidental to the larger argument. For he wanted to show "not merely how to divide a sum, but how to adjust rights and obligations." Like most of his contemporaries among the new professional economists, he was more or less obsessed with meeting the challenge issued by the moral philoso­ pher Henry Sidgwick, in his review of Francis A . Walker's pioneering work, The Wages Question (1877). "W hile Professor Walker's argument gives a coup de grace to the wages-fund theory, it supplies no substitute for it; it leaves us with no theoretical determination whatever for the average pro­ portions in which produce is divided between capital and labor." Walker him self established the pattern of response with an essay of 1887, "The Source of Business Profits." Here he overthrew the empiricist dictum of The Wages Question— "what we need is not a nice theoretical classification, but a just and strong exhibition of the great groups of our modern indus­ trial society"— and offered a down payment on "a complete and consistent body of doctrine regarding the distribution of wealth." Clark's efforts may be viewed as either further installments or final payments.1 In 19 0 3, J. H. Hollander of Johns Hopkins suggested that Walker's invest­ ment in a theory of distribution was "a reaction born of intimate acquain­ tance with American economic conditions [against] the traditional doctrines of the English classical political economy." But Walker's purpose was not to exempt the U .S. from the corollaries and consequences of industrial capi57

talism as these were revealed by a Ricardian theory of value; instead, he wanted to understand and to explain industrial capitalism as it had developed in the United States. So his concerns were never strictly practical or nar­ rowly historical. Even the proximity to political power which purchased his "intimate acquaintance with American economic conditions" was afforded by his intellectual attainments, and fed into his theoretical project. Walker taught political economy at Yale from 1873 to 18 8 1, then served as presi­ dent of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology until his death in 1897. Meanwhile, he supervised the ninth and the tenth censuses as director of the U .S. Bureau of Statistics and consulted with the Senate Finance Com­ mittee during its investigations of wages and prices in the early 1890s. The most significant of the American economic conditions to be discovered from these various positions seemed to be that capitalists had become, or were fast becoming, public servants. As Hollander put it, in the United States "the laborer, and not the entrepreneur received, or might receive if he as­ serted his claim thereto, whatever economic surplus or unearned increment resulted from industry."2 The question that followed for Walker, and for the new generation of economists which included Clark, Hollander, Richard Ely, John R. Com­ mons, E .R .A . Seligman, Irving Fisher, Franklin Giddings, and Simon Pat­ ten, was this: assuming it is possible for wage earners to receive "whatever economic surplus" results from industrial production— presumably because almost everyone agreed that consumption was authorized by the creation of new values through "productive labor," not by the "unproductive" mental labor of the middleman or the manager— on what grounds can entrepre­ neurs or capitalists justify their claims to a share of national income? Like his successors, Walker hoped that his answer, his new theory of distribution, would have broadly political consequences. For example, here is how he concluded his essay of 1887: "The bearing of this view of the source of busi­ ness profits upon the socialist assumption that profits are but unpaid wages is too manifest to require exposition. That this v i e w. . . would have a truly reconciling influence upon the always strained and often hostile relations between employer and employed, cannot be doubted."3 Walker's successors, who shared his fears of class conflict and his hopes for economic theory, were the original American marginalists. By the 1920s, scholars generally agreed that these New World innovators excelled within the province of theory that attempted to explain the distribution of income between the "factors of production" (i.e., land/rent, labor/wages, capital/ profit). Scholars could agree on this because the American marginalists were the first to articulate an elaborate conception of the capitalist's creative


Between Consumers and Corporations

(unction in commodity production as well as distribution and, on that basis, to propose theories of cost, profit, and interest which fit the new "subjec­ tive" bent of political economy. Since the marginalist theory of value was essentially a theory of demand, it required as a condition of its coherence a theory of income distribution— that is, some account of how demand was made effective. The American marginalists provided this account. That is why contestants in the recent debate over modern capital theory so often dte the work of John Bates Clark.4 But from their standpoint in the late twentieth century, his faith in the moral weight and healing power of economic theory seems quaint at best. For example, Lionel Lord Robbins, the eminent economist, accepts marginal productivity as an analytical technique but dismisses the ethical import its inventors attributed to it. "It has sometimes been argued— J. B. Clark is perhaps the chief culprit— that a proof that, under competitive conditions, productive agents are paid according to the value of their marginal physical product is a proof that such a society is just. This of course is a complete non sequitur. " 5And yet Clark and his allies within the marginalist vanguard did not see it that way. So before we decide that we can detach the "scientific" content of marginal productivity from its original "ideological" form— as if we could extrude the essence of economic theory from the base alloy of language in which it happens to be embedded— we should ask why its American inventors never noticed the logical contradiction in which they had apparently implicated themselves and their students. To do so is to ask why the marginalists in the United States saw the need for a new language, a new model, of political obligation, or, what is the same thing, why they believed they had to specify new conditions of mutu­ ality, harmony, and equality among the interests or agents that constituted civil society. To begin with, the American marginalists assumed that natu­ ral right— what Thorstein Veblen called the principle of "natural liberty"— was no longer adequate to explain or to justify capitalist conduct and in­ come. Alfred Marshall, the English economist with whom Walker and Clark had the most in common, stated that assumption forthrightly: "The ten­ dency of careful economic study is to base the rights of private property not on any abstract principle, but on the observation that in the past they have been inseparable from solid economic progress." In other words, so long as the natural right of property went unquestioned, the classical economists' "failure to realize a positive service of capital in production," as Hollander put it, was not a serious omission.4 But once civil society was no longer an assembly of individual propri­ etors who were equally subject to the anonymous laws of the market— Between Consumers and Corporations


once a certain concentration of wealth and the permanence of a property­ less "wages class" were evident to all interested observers— any expectation of agreement among civil society's constituent elements on the most basic rights and obligations (e.g., of property) became dangerously naive. Arthur Hadley, the authority on (and director of) railroads from Yale who adapted marginalist principles in his Economics of 1896, explained the problem in this way: "A republican government is organized on the assumption that all men are free and equal. If the political power i s . . . equally distributed while the industrial power is concentrated in the hands of a few, it creates dangers of class struggles and class legislation which menace both our political and our industrial order."7 From his standpoint, the search for a theory of distribution which attrib­ uted to capitalists a "positive service in production" was a search for the principles and sources of mutuality, harmony, and equality among individu­ als aggregated according to economic function. It was, then, a search made possible and necessary by the rise of the "labor problem"— by the demise of equality among individuals and the concurrent emergence of a modern class society. In that sense, or to that extent, we can say that the marginalists faced the question of class struggle squarely. It is precisely because they did not try to avoid the issues raised by the "socialistic writers," as Hadley called them, that they were successful in enunciating a new language of politi­ cal obligation which stressed the active service and progressive functions of capital.* A t this metatheoretical level, marginalism was an unquestionably real­ istic approach to the key issues of modem, corporate-industrial society in the United States. As such, it constitutes a significant contribution to what we know as modern liberalism. For modern liberalism acknowledges the equity of functional groups as a potential principle of political obligation in a society characterized by the concentration of wealth and power.9 But it is difficult to account in these terms for the success of marginalism as a teaching device in the universities and as a policy-relevant model in privatesector planning. We need, therefore, to ask what made it appear realistic in the realm of microeconomic applications. Another way to pose the same question is to ask why it was not until the 1890s that marginal utility (or productivity) was deemed "useful in solv­ ing practical economic problems," as C.D.W . Goodwin puts it. In effect we are asking what, if any, practical economic problems emerging in or by the 1890s seemed uniquely susceptible to marginalist assumptions and meth­ ods. If we can judge from discussions among the leaders of the American business community— who were increasingly drawn from the new corpo­


Between Consumers and Corporations

rate sector of this community— the late-nineteenth-century order of events had defined the relation between costs, prices, and returns on capital in­ vestment as the critical microeconomic problem, but had also demonstrated that the economic problem so conceived was one symptom of unanswered social, cultural, and political questions. Their solution was to consolidate competing firms, to integrate separate industries, thus to stabilize prices and reinstate reasonable profits— in other words, to use the possibilities of the corporate legal form as an answer to such questions. This strategy of corpo­ rate "rationalization" would reduce fixed costs vis-à-vis the price of finished products, and in the longer run would allow the conscious adjustment of supply to demand and price to cost.10 But if supply rather than price or profit was to be the new variable in a new corporate-industrial investment system, the technical or administra­ tive problem of cost allocation among different kinds and different uses of capital assets acquired a practical significance it did not— and could not— have as long as the determination of prices and profits was left to the de­ mand side. And here marginalist analysis became particularly relevant and useful. Its theorem of opportunity cost, for example, by which one calcu­ lates the utilities that could have been produced with the same resources that went into what was actually produced, is essentially a method of estab­ lishing priorities in economic planning; for it presumes that one can choose between at least two different uses of assets. The principle of substitution (capital for labor and vice versa), which not incidentally animates neoclassi­ cal capital theory, is sim ilarly predicated on the assumption that investment decisions are not forced on capitalists by external circumstances, as Jeremiah Jenks, the Cornell economist and authority on "the trust question," claimed they were as late as 1890. "N o sooner has the capitalist fairly adopted one improved machine, than it must be thrown away for a still later and better invention, which must be purchased at dear cost, if the manufacturer would not see himself eclipsed by his riv al."11 M arginal utility or productivity could not, then, become useful in solv­ ing the practical economic problems of cost allocation and long-term in­ vestment planning until the corporate alternative to unrestricted competi­ tion among capitalists made them practical economic possibilities. B y the same token, the marginalist view of capital's active function in producing value would seem implausible unless managers had effectively challenged skilled workers' control of the division of labor within the factory, and until pro-capitalist intellectuals had proposed realistic alternatives to the cate­ gory of productive labor. From this standpoint, the marginalists carried the day after 1890 because they designed a model that posited— that presup­ Behveen Consumers and Corporations


posed and promoted— those changes through which capitalist solidarity and managerial discretion would become the conditions of renewed economic growth and social development. We now summarize those changes by ref­ erence to the rise of corporate (or managerial or monopoly) capitalism. Clark's generation summarized them in terms of "the trust question," and used the new theory of marginal productivity to explain them. As Hollan­ der claimed, "The successive aspects of the theory become intelligible as the interpretation. . . of contemporary industrial life ."12 Clark and his col­ leagues in the marginalist vanguard understood that the point was to change it; and they were able to help change it because their theories did in fact comprehend their times. Or did they? 1 have been arguing that the marginalist model allowed economists to narrate— to examine, to explain, to justify— the emergence of both mass consumption and corporate enterprise. In effect I have been arguing that the marginalist model amounts to the political economy of consumer culture, and should be appreciated as such. I want to clarify this argument by demonstrating that consumer culture resides in the transi­ tion from proprietary to corporate capitalism. So 1must begin by insisting that we define consumer culture as something more than the negotiation of meanings through the display of goods, or rather through the commodity form ; otherwise we have no incentive to treat consumption as both eco­ nomic and cultural activity, and thus no reason to believe that qualitative and quantitative changes in consumption after 1800 signify either economic or cultural change. Perhaps I protest too much. To be sure, much of the recent work on the topic does tend to equate "the birth of consumer society" and the gener­ alization of the commodity form; that is why debates among scholars who assume the validity of this equation often sound both portentous and point­ less. But Richard Fox and Jackson Lears, the editors of the pathbreaking collection The Culture of Consumption, do, after all, define consumer cul­ ture as a "value system ," as a "new set of sanctions for the elite control" of twentieth-century American society, as "an ethic, a standard of living, and a power structure," and finally as "an ideology and a way of seein g."13 They also claim that this complex came of age between 1880 and 19 30, as a consequence of convergence between the "maturation of the national marketplace," the "emergence of a new stratum of professionals and man­ agers," and the "rise of a new gospel of therapeutic release" (xi). So their periodization of consumer culture is certainly consistent with what I will propose hereafter; for they argue that the new culture was convened by a


Between Consumers and Corporations

constellation of economic, social, and intellectual events (mature market­ place, new stratum, new gospel) specific to the late nineteenth century. Yet for all their doubts about earlier scholarship, which perfected a para­ noid style in explaining the political effects of mass consumption, Fox and Lears define the culture in question as the invention of persuaders hidden between labor and capital. In this time of cultural consternation, the new professional-managerial corps appeared with a timely dual message. On the one hand they pro­ posed a new managerial efficiency, a new regime of administration by experts for business, government, and other spheres of life. On the other hand, they preached a new morality that subordinated the old goal of transcendence to new ideals of self-fulfillment and immediate gratifi­ cation. This late-nineteenth-century link between individual hedonism and bureaucratic organizations— a link that has been strengthened in the twentieth century— marks the point of departure for modern American consumer culture, (xii) They also treat the "maturation of the national marketplace" as a selfevident summary of economic change in the period. So the historical per­ spective they bring to the study of consumer culture cannot address the questions of periodization raised by scholars who claim that "the birth of consumer society" is an eighteenth-century phenomenon. In effect, Fox, Lears, and their coauthors argue that the culture emerg­ ing in the United States at the turn of the twentieth century should be understood as the extrem ity of what Georg Lukacs called "reification"; for it completes the "commodification" of social life which began with the rise of capitalism, by making every social relation, personal attribute, and politi­ cal principle subject to the "cash nexus," to the laws of value that regulate the circulation of commodities. They designate this new complex a "con­ sum er" culture because everything, even subjectivity as such, is finally and fully implicated in the price system— because the self-determining person­ ality now becomes a consumer good, the elements of which are for sale in the market as beauty, cleanliness, sincerity, and autonomy. Here is how Lukàcs put it: "The transformation of the commodity relation into a thing of 'ghostly objectivity'. . . stamps its imprint upon the whole consciousness of man; his qualities and abilities are no longer an organic part of his per­ sonality, they are things which he can 'own' or 'dispose of ' like the various objects of the external world." So conceived, consumer culture becomes the frontier of commodity fetishism opened by the "maturation of the national

Between Consumers and Corporations


marketplace" and mapped by the new professional persuaders— it requires the negotiation of all meanings, even the meanings of selfhood, through the display of those goods that the commodity form can accommodate. As Fox, Lears, and their coauthors define and criticize it, twentieth-century consumer culture is, then, the fulfillment of eighteenth-century "consumer society" as John McKendrick, J. H. Plumb, and others define and cele­ brate it. According to both camps, the difference between these notions and periods is of degree rather than kind; for both camps assume that the gen­ eralization of the commodity form must be the proximate cause of what they propose to explain.14 I want to sketch an alternative to this unlikely historiographical consen­ sus by defining consumer culture more broadly, in terms of the develop­ ment of capitalism— that is, by reopening the question of "reification" or "commodification." I do not mean to suggest that we can safely ignore the generalization of the commodity form. But I think John Dewey was correct to say that "because we are such materialists," we tend to focus our attention "upon the rigid thing instead of upon the moving act." We tend, in other words, to treat commodities as if they were external objects, not moments in a circuit of thoughts as well as things, of language as well as labor. We do so because we know, from reading Marx among others, that capitalism enlarges the dominion of dead matter, by enforcing the social power of past labor-time congealed in capital goods or represented by money and its sur­ rogates. But we also know, from reading Dewey among others, that the development of capitalism enables an active, experimental attitude toward truth, which demands purposeful production and manipulation of objects as the condition of certainty in knowledge. Insofar as we treat the commodity form accordingly— insofar, that is, as we treat it pragmatically, as a "m ov­ ing act" instead of a "rigid thing"— we can begin to grasp its meaning for and significance in different historical epochs. We might then be able to use the notion of "reification" as if it was something more than a synonym for alienation from the human condition.15 If I understand them correctly, Fox and Lears have claimed that the de­ fining characteristic of twentieth-century consumer culture is the commodi­ fication of personality or selfhood. But to my knowledge, they have not explained how and why this phenomenon is specific to the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. Indeed I would say there are at least two rea­ sons that they cannot do so. First, if we know that private property serves as the foundation of the self-determining personality in postfeudal society, but also that property must be an alienable commodity to serve as such, then we can assume that the commodification of personality or selfhood


Between Consumers and Corporations

is the moral and political problem that determines the modem condition and defines the transition from feudalism to capitalism. As C. B. Macpherson, J.G .A . Pocock, and Jean-Christophe Agnew have demonstrated, the increasing mobility of property in the eighteenth-century aftermath of the financial revolution complicates but not does not create this problem.16 Sec­ ond, if the ethical principle that regulates the critique of consumer culture is the integrity of the "natural individual," the self-determining personality, and if the condition of that integrity is abstention from the historical process through which social relations, personal attributes, and political principles are commodified in theory and practice, then the critique becomes incoher­ ent. For it posits as ethical principle precisely what it repudiates as historical event— it posits the "natural individual," the self-determining personality, created in and by the transition from feudalism to capitalism, that is, in and by the commodification of personality or selfhood which reached a critical stage with "the birth of consumer society" in the eighteenth century. So I would suggest that the critique of consumer culture according to Fox, Lears, and others should be understood as a moral polemic against the proletarianization of the small producer which remains perfectly consistent with possessive individualism; in other words, it should be understood as a more or less populist protest against the bureaucratization of bourgeois society by corporate-industrial business enterprise. But 1 do not want to suggest that their critique is insignificant because it is animated by popu­ list politics. I would instead insist that it is indispensable because it begins by asking this question: if the personality has no fixed location, no real foundation in property or in a community of producers, can we imagine the possibility of genuine selfhood and, for that matter, of an intelligible m orality? Like the Populists, Fox, Lears, and their coauthors answer with an almost thunderous "N o !" In doing so, they threaten to exclude most of the twentieth-century population from full citizenship in the moral and political universe they valorize. But the question is more important than the answer; for it leads us back to the late nineteenth century, when the fact of a permanent proletarian majority became a salient issue in American political discourse— that is, when people asked the same question as if their answers would determine the future of popular government. I am not claiming that more was at stake back then, or that the politi­ cal discourse of the late nineteenth century was superior to that of the late twentieth century. I am claiming that until the m id-i920s, the sources of the genuine self were open to serious question and political answers. When artists and intellectuals asked whether subjectivity could survive its expul­ sion from the private Eden of the inner self, the question was not m erely Between Consumers and Corporations


rhetorical, and the answers were not invariably elegiac, as they have since become (or almost all writers on the Left. They treated the characteristic changes of their epoch— the reconstruction of business enterprise, the con­ fusion of cultural spheres, and the remaking of class relations— not only as threats to modem subjectivity but also as sources of a new, social self. So they saw promise and possibility where the contemporary critics of con­ sumer culture see only problems. Where the latter see the commodification of social relations as such, for example, the former saw both the possibility of a passage beyond the realm of necessity and the promise of rewarding work that was nevertheless "unproductive" labor from the standpoint of subaltern social movements.17 Note, however, that both generations of young intellectuals agree that the characteristic changes of the epoch beginning around 1890 do repre­ sent threats to modern subjectivity or possessive individualism. They also agree that questions of political economy are central to all others if only because the division of mental and manual labor— a division that defines the "new social stratum" of professional persuaders— is itself determined by the mechanization of commodity production and the bureaucratization of the labor process under corporate auspices. This broad area of agree­ ment makes the differences between the generations all the more striking; surely it makes examination and explanation of these differences all the more essential. Let us return, then, to the generation that came of age at the turn of the century. Why did it believe that the problem of production had been solved, and how did it express that belief?

Advent of the "Age of Surplus" By the end of the nineteenth century, observers of the American scene— not just the economists and the academic intellectuals but also the politi­ cians and the larger public— had several good reasons to believe that the existing capacity to produce commodities far exceeded the effective demand for those commodities. The notion of "overproduction" had already sup­ planted or subsumed monetary explanations of economic crisis, and not simply because the Populists had lost their electoral gamble of 1896. For the pro-corporate goldbugs had turned the labor theory of value against its pre­ sumed partisans among the "toiling millions," mainly by pointing out that prices of commodities fell as did the labor-time required to produce them: monetary factors alone could not account for the available evidence. In the


Between Consumers and Corporations

1890s and after, the question of demand or distribution accordingly became a central political issue as well as a problem for macroeconomic theory.1* Indeed the inventors of the new industrial corporations depicted them as means by which this question could be properly addressed. So conceived, the corporations appeared as a device through which supply could be ad­ justed to demand without state-centered planning, and demand itself could be enlarged, reshaped, or even created. If you were a Populist, this capacity of the corporations represented a threat to the liberties of the people because it presupposed the centralization of market power and the manipulation of market forces; if you were not a Populist, it represented the possibility of treating the market as something other than a self-regulating externality that limited the liberties of most people. But everyone agreed that the cor­ porations were both symptom and attempted cure of "overproduction/' and would succeed insofar as they found answers to the question of distribution. So the corporations announced the advent of the age of surplus. In popu­ list perspective, everything about "the trusts" was superfluous, including— or rather especially— the new social stratum that inhabited, and managed, the relation between the "producing classes" and the capitalists. This stra­ tum produced nothing of its own, nothing of value in the strict sense deter­ mined by the category of "productive labor," except perhaps the laws and the rules that would regulate the disposition of excess values. In short, the corporations were the equivalent— the cause and the effect— of the unpro­ ductive and the unnecessary. From a different standpoint than that afforded by the Peoples' Party, however, this equivalence was a reason to celebrate, or to contemplate, the effects and implications of business enterprise as it had been redefined by corporate innovation. At any rate it was an invita­ tion to think about the meaning of necessity, and perhaps to rethink the significance of the "social surplus" that corporate enterprise had appeared to allocate.19 By 19 14 , so many writers had accepted this invitation that the notion of an "age of surplus" had become a commonplace if not a cliché. The utility of the notion was due in part to the efforts of Simon Patten, the University of Pennsylvania economist who began describing an impending "economic revolution" in the 1890s. He mapped the promised land most clearly in a popular book of 1907, The New Basis of Civilization, where he charted the passage from a "pain economy" to a "pleasure economy," or from the "age of deficit" to the "age of surplus." Long stretches of this book are bar­ ren ground on which nothing but superficial speculations could flourish; elsewhere the tone and style are so anxiously prophetic as to make the argu-

Between Consumers and Corporations


ment a parody of a seventeenth-century jeremiad. Yet Patten himself was a perfectly respectable member of several professional communities; in 1908, for example, he served as president of the American Economic Association. Moreover, his book's immediate influence was considerable— by which I mean not that it went through eight editions before 19 23, although this is indicative of its popularity, but that it quickly became a lexicon for all kinds of writers who were looking for a way to specify the relation between the "economic revolution" residing in the "trust movement" and the cul­ tural revolution residing in the redefinition of subjectivity. Among these writers were Van Wyck Brooks, the most influential of the so-called young intellectuals who rewrote nineteenth-century American literary history be­ tween 19 15 and 1929; M ary Roberts Smith Coolidge, the Stanford soci­ ologist who became an authority on both immigration and feminism; and W illiam James, who understood more clearly than anyone else that subjec­ tivity would survive the transition to what he called a "pacific cosmopolitan industrialism ."20 But the notion of an "age of surplus" was even more pervasive and repu­ table than these examples would suggest. Economists in the mainstream of both theoretical developments and practical policy-making had been deal­ ing with the implications of surplus capital since the m id-i890s. By the second decade of the twentieth century, they had also begun to consider the limits to growth represented by social and psychological constraints on consumption, not investment. For example, in 19 12 , Wesley C. Mitchell of Columbia, who had been a student of Thorstein Veblen's at the University of Chicago— he later became a founder of the National Bureau of Economic Research and the dean of business cycle theorists in the United States— published an essay entitled "The Backward Art of Spending M oney" in the American Economic Review. Here Mitchell followed contemporary feminist usage by defining the fam ily as a constraint on the increase of consumption recently made possible and necessary by the "gigantic increase in the vol­ ume of goods produced and in the aggregate incomes earned." He claimed that North Americans were already "reorganizing certain forms of fam ily expenditure on the basis of large groups"— for example, through "social­ ized spending of money" on parks, playgrounds, nurseries, libraries— and proposed to enlarge on these "promising experiments" in the organization of consumption.21 Jeremiah Jenks also wondered about the effects of this new relation be­ tween production and consumption— new because the practical question it raised was no longer how to restrict consumption or contain the growth of wage income in the name of greater investment and expanded production, 68

Between Consumers and Corporations

but how to enlarge consumption or maintain the growth of wage income when the growth of employment (hence wage income) no longer seemed to be the function of expanded production enforced by greater private in­ vestment. In 19 13 , at the moment social scientists were beginning to worry about what they now call structural unemployment, Jenks addressed this question in the context of a study of the demand for labor as it would be determined by patterns of immigration. If employment was no longer growing proportionately to the increase of output because corporations had economized on labor-time (and labor costs) by fully mechanizing the pro­ duction process, he noted, then the continuation of immigration at existing rates would create an unprecedented problem of unemployment. He pro­ posed to reconsider if not revise immigration policies, and left it at that. But my point is that Jenks noticed what later economists and social theorists would grasp as the characteristic problem, or promise, of twentieth-century corporate capitalism— he noticed that one effect of the "trust movement" was the extrication of human labor as such from commodity production, and he wondered what to make of it.22 Since then, we have all been wondering about the same thing, whether we know it or not. The bottom line of recent debates about government spend­ ing, for example, is reached when we realize that both sides in the debate agree that the demand for labor determined by private investment cannot create full employment; in other words, everyone agrees that "public in­ vestm ent" in the form of government spending is necessary to the growth of wage income (hence consumption) because growth of employment can no longer be defined as a function of expanded production enforced by pri­ vate investment.231do not want to suggest that Jenks and Mitchell or Patten and Coolidge or Brooks and James stated the case in this way, or that they were fully aware of what the ongoing "economic revolution" entailed. But I do want to insist that they made significant contributions to the political economy of consumer culture— that they studied the social and cultural questions of their time as if these were also economic questions raised by the advent of the "age of surplus." Certainly Walter Lippmann did so in what remains his most provocative and political book, Drift and Mastery: An Attempt to Diagnose the Current Unrest (19 14 ).24 "W e do no longer regard it as 'sordid' to take an interest in economic problems" (143), he announced, as if to remind his readers that he had already defined new social movements and cultural possibilities as symptoms of political-economic change. In the opening chapters of part 1 , Lippmann summarized such change by noting that "the cultural basis of property is radically altered," and by suggesting how inherited ideas about Between Consumers and Corporations


the relation between property and personality would have to be altered ac­ cordingly; throughout he assumed that the "trust movement" was the prox­ imate cause of these alterations (32-51). In the closing chapters of part 3, Lippmann moved to a different level of abstraction, where Patten's lexicon became the vernacular, and began to treat symptomatic social movements as if they were also cures for American economic ailments. For example, he concluded chapter 12 by predicting a future in which "mankind w ill have emerged from a fear economy" (138). This was not incidentally a paraphrase of James, who had quoted Patten in "The Moral Equivalent of W ar." In the next chapter, Lippmann claimed that the "desire for self-govern­ ment has become vivid with the accumulation of a great surplus of wealth" (14 0 -4 1), and went on to define the labor movement and the "women's awakening" as symptoms of this modern, democratic desire. Indeed he called them the "two greatest forces for human emancipation"— here he followed Ibsen's lead— because they were "pointed away from submissive want, balked impulse, and unquestioned obedience" (142-43). They were expressions, he suggested, of an impending passage beyond necessity. "In the midst of plenty, the imagination becomes ambitious, rebellion against m isery is at last justified, and dreams have a basis in fact" (14 1). From this standpoint, the related results of the renunciation of desire— social control and character formation— looked like residues of repression which had be­ come unnecessary in view of "a great surplus of wealth"; in other words, the reform of the body politic required the resurrection of the body, but both presupposed the advent of the age of surplus. "So, too, the day is passing when the child is taught to regard the body as a filthy thing. . . . Our interest in sex is no longer to annihilate it, but to educate it, to find civilized opportunities for its expression. We hope to organize industry and housekeeping so that normal mating shall not be a monstrously difficult problem" (143).25 B y Lippmann's account, "the accumulation of a great surplus of wealth" undermined the older incentives for increased production under the auspices of "modern industry" (35-44) and accordingly enlarged the cultural signifi­ cance of consumption. "We hear a great deal about the class-consciousness of labor; my own observation is that in America to-day consumers' con­ sciousness is growing very much faster" (55). This correlation of "great surplus" and "consumers' consciousness" logically entailed the growth of feminism, or at least some increase in the economic and cultural significance of women, apparently because female experience had not been shaped by production for profit or work for wages. "The mass of women do not look at the world as workers; in America, at least their prime interest is as con-


Between Consumers and Corporations

siim ers" (54). Other close observers of the American scene used a sim ilar gauge to measure the same dimension of the age of surplus. In 19 10 , for example, W illiam James explained the appeal of war by reference to the lack of necessary labor or meaningful work under the stupefying regime of "pacific cosmopolitan industrialism." The age of surplus was creating "a world of clerks and teachers, of co-education and zo-ophily, of 'consumer's leagues' and 'associated charities,' of industrialism unlimited, and feminism unabashed"— in other words, a world over which women presided. Edward Devine, one of Patten's more energetic and influential students from the University of Pennsylvania, was perhaps more explicit in "The Economic Function of Woman," an essay published in 1894: "If acquisition is the idea which in the past history of economics has been all but unduly emphasized, expenditure is the idea which the future of the science will place beside it. It is this change which involves a revolution in the attitude of the science toward the economic function of wom an."26 When Lippmann, James, and Devine suggested that women embodied or represented the principle of consumption (as against production), they were drawing on common knowledge; for the gendered division of labor between household and market which characterized capitalist industrialization in the nineteenth century had already expelled manhood and productive labor from the symbolic property of the home, where feminine domesticity could become a consumer good.27 But when they claimed that consumption had or would become the regulative principle of life under "pacific cosmopolitan industrialism ," and deduced the increasing significance of females (or femi­ nism) from that claim, they were remaking common sense. For they were suggesting that the relation between the "economic revolution" residing in the "trust movement" (that is, the advent of the "age of surplus" under corporate auspices) and the cultural revolution residing in the redefinition of subjectivity was transacted in the figure of the New Woman. From their standpoint, I would then conclude, the New Woman repre­ sented not only the principle of consumption but the promise of subjec­ tivity under circumstances that seemed to have cast the "social se lf" as the new paradigm of personality. James is more ambiguous than the others— mainly, I think, because his critique of modem subjectivity authorizes sev­ eral alternatives. Even so, we should remember that it was James who spoke as if pragmatism were a woman. "Ought we ever not to believe what it is better for us to believe? And can we then keep the notion of what is better for us, and what is true for us, permanently apart? Pragmatism says no, and I fully agree with h er."26 Since James and his ambiguities are the main char­ acters in part 2 of this book, there is no need to develop them here. But I do Between Consumers and Corporations


want to reexamine Lippmann's argument about selfhood as a way of test­ ing my conclusion on the representative capacities of the New Woman, and recalling my question about the differences between generations of young intellectuals. There are three moments in this argument. First, Lippmann notes that the rise of the large corporations has radically changed the meaning and significance of private property. "The trust movement is doing what no conspirator or revolutionist could ever do: it is sucking the life out of pri­ vate property. For the purposes of modern industry the traditional notions have become meaningless: the name continues, but the fact is disappearing. You cannot conduct the great industries and preserve intact the principles of private property. And so the trusts are organizing private property out of existence, are altering its nature so radically that very little remains but the title and the ancient theory" (45). This verdict on property may sound demented or apocalyptic to citizens of the late twentieth century. But it was both unexceptional and unexceptionable in 19 14 . As Alfred Marshall had suggested, those who were engaged in "careful economic study" did not invoke natural right when explaining or defending the purposes to which private property was put by that legal artifice known as the large corpo­ ration; they already knew better. Lippmann's verdict should be allowed to stand in any event. For the separation of ownership and direct control of corporate assets implies that the right to manage such assets cannot be de­ rived from its traditional source in the natural right of property, and that the performance of corporate managers need not be evaluated according to strictly economic criteria such as profit and loss.2* Second, Lippmann claims that under circumstances defined by the "trust movement," property ownership cannot be posited as the necessary condi­ tion of self-determination. The civilizing "magic of property" sim ply w ill not work in the laboratory of the "largescale corporation," where "capital shall be impersonal, 'liquid/ 'mobile' " — not the material means to authen­ tic individuality. "For where in the name of sanity have all the courage, foresight, initiative gone to, what has happened to all the rugged virtues that are supposed to be inherent in the magic of property? They have gone a-glimmering with the revolutionary change that the great industry has pro­ duced. Those personal virtues belong to an earlier age when men really had some personal contact with their property" (47). The cause-effect relation between property ownership and the virtues of self-determination ("cour­ age, foresight, initiative")— a relation normally represented in American political discourse by the figure of the freeholder or the small producer— was, then, attenuated if not adjourned under social conditions defined by


Between Consumers and Corporations

corporate enterprise. The freeholder, the small producer, had escaped the vicissitudes of historical time by virtue of his fixed location in the body politic, his unique place in relation to his property; he had served accord­ ingly as the model of the modern subject, the "inner-directed" individual. This modern individual also appeared as the moral personality because he was both autonomous and rational: he could neither be appropriated by others— he was not a wage slave— nor dominated by his own desires. So he was something more than the creature of social or natural circumstances; he had character. He was the "man of reason."30 But insofar as the rela­ tion between property and personality became an open question, as it did in Lippmann's argument, so, too, did this "man of reason"; for he was the product of the relation in question. The third moment in Lippmann's argument is reached when he addresses this open question as if there might be an answer, that is, when alternatives to the dessicated figure of the freeholder or the small producer appear to complicate its correlates in the modern subject, the moral personality, the "man of reason." Those alternatives appear at the cutting edge of the move­ ment for democracy— in the labor movement and through the "women's awakening." I cannot claim that Lippmann proposes the proletarian and the female as new models of subjectivity. But I can claim that these are the figures he associates with "social property," and with solutions to the "prob­ lem of collectivism " which emerges when private property becomes "too abstract, too scattered, too fluctuating" to constitute subjectivity in singular form , as the male proprietor. For example, in concluding his analysis of the waning "magic of prop­ erty," Lippmann remarks: "W hat has happened to the railroads is m erely a demonstration of what is likely to happen to the other great industries.. . . Private property w ill melt away; its functions will be taken over by the salaried men who direct them, by government commissions, by developing trade unions" (49). But at that point the movement toward social democ­ racy has only begun. "The real problem of collectivism is the difficulty of combining popular control with administrative power. Private property is no part of the issue. . . . What would remain for discussion would be the conflict between democracy and centralized authority" (50). So the labor movement becomes the key to resolving this conflict. "It is the develop­ ment of a citizenship in industry that the labor movement has before it. It w ill have to work out the intricate problem of popular control in relation to technical administration" (66). For its purpose is to create a collective iden­ tity, a social subjectivity. "O nly through the union can the wage-earner participate in the control of industry, and only through the union can he Between Consumers and Corporations


obtain the discipline needed (or self-government" (59). Or again: "Labor is still fighting to be admitted to the sphere of human society where it is pos­ sible to talk of adjusting difficulties. A few workers, like the skilled railroad men, have just about climbed in. But the great mass has not been made part of that world where decisions are made and policies are formulated. The unions are struggling to give the wage-earners representation [in this domain], and that is why the hopes of democracy are bound up with the labor movement" (67). Lippmann is even more emphatic about the civilizing function of the social movement convened by feminism. "The awakening of women points straight to the discipline of cooperation. And so it is laying the real founda­ tions for the modern world" (133-34). Here again the pivot of the argument is the redefinition of property; for that is what creates both the possibility of and the necessity for collective identities through cooperation. "N ow in the complicated civilization upon which we are now entering," Lippmann predicts, "it will be impossible for many people to enjoy the primitive sense of absolute possession. We shall need men and women who can take an interest in collective property, who can feel personally and vividly about it" (130). By redefining the home and the family, feminism promises to meet this need for adults who can imagine selfhood in the absence of absolute proprietary rights. "One of the supreme values of feminism is that it will have to socialize the home. When women seek a career they have to spe­ cialize. When they specialize they have to cooperate. They have to abandon more and more the self-sufficient individualism of the older fam ily" (13 1). As that older fam ily recedes, Lippmann suggests, so, too, w ill the notion of property that served as its ego-boundary. "The sense of property may be a deep instinct. But surely the nineteenth century home stimulated the in­ stinct to the point of morbidity. For it did almost nothing to bring the child into contact with the real antidote to acquisitiveness— a sense of social prop­ erty" (130). This antidote is contained, then, in the feminist family, which, by its deepening implication in the social division of labor, can produce "people who can feel that they possess the parks, the libraries, the museums of their city, [who] are likely to be far more civilized people than those who want a park which they can enclose, and who want to own a master­ piece all by themselves" (130). So, while "the trusts" are busily "sucking the life out of private property," the women's movement inspired by femi­ nism is breathing life into "a sense of social property"; in the same breath, Lippmann claims, it is announcing an alternative to "the self-sufficient indi­ vidualism of the older fam ily," wherein the female "learns to obey, to wait on the lordly male" (130).


Between Consumers and Corporations

He does, then, suggest that there are new models of subjectivity emerg­ ing from the labor movement and the "women's awakening." In both cases, the "social se lf" or the collective identity forged by cooperation appears as the alternative to the morbid isolation of the lordly male proprietor who still believes in the illusion of individualism, the magic of private property. But Lippmann expects the feminists to build the "real foundations" of a more civilized future; in his view, the New Woman represents the promise of sub­ jectivity as well as the principle of consumption under circumstances defined by corporate enterprise. "For one fact is written across the whole horizon, the prime element in any discussion," he insists. "That fact is the abso­ lute necessity for a readjusting of woman's position" (125). In Uppmann's argument, the moving figure of that woman already transacts the relation between the "economic revolution" residing in the "trust movement" and the cultural revolution residing in the redefinition of subjectivity. But why and how did the New Woman become this middle term, this metaphor of movement beyond the modern subject, the moral personality, and the "man of reason" as these were engendered, in every sense, by the figure of the freeholder or the small producer? Why not the working class— or rather how did the figure of the female come to connote a broader range of possibility than the labor movement? In Lippmann's case, I think it is fair to say that he used this figure to interrogate the theory and practice of socialism. In 19 14 , he was dissatisfied not with socialism as such but with a socialist movement that gave priority to the principle of class by assuming that relations of production— the scene of "socially necessary labor"— still determined or regulated all social relations. So conceived, socialism merely replicated the outlook of the labor movement; it was not yet a cross-class ideology that could address the concerns and accommodate the constitu­ encies of other social movements, for example those animated by more or less feminist issues. "W e hear a great deal about the class-consciousness of labor," Lippmann noted. "M y own observation is that in America to-day. consumers' consciousness is growing very much faster."31 Most of the young intellectuals who came together as writers on the Left before the war did not study socialism as carefully as Lippmann had; certainly none of them had his practical experience as an assistant to the socialist mayor of Schenectady. Even so, most of them were socialists of a similar sort. They were committed to the labor movement; they treated the profit motive— what Henry James called the "grope of wealth"— as hope­ lessly regressive; and they understood socialism as the infrastructural or "economic" dimension of a broader cultural movement beyond the paro­ chialisms of the Puritan, the pioneer, and the Philistine.32 Between Consumers and Corporations


Van Wyck Brooks is a good example of the type. In America’s Comingof-Age, published a year after Lippmann's Drift and Mastery, Brooks noted, "A familiar distinction between the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries is that the problem of civilization is no longer the problem of want but the problem of surplus." It followed, he claimed, that "economic self-assertion ('enterprise') has become to a large extent a vicious anachronism." Indeed, so long as entrepreneurial self-assertion set the standards for selfhood, the articulation of "personality"— the fulfillment of the self through art, reli­ gion, literature— would be impossible. According to Brooks, socialism was the means by which Americans could set these standards aside and begin to make other, less aggressive alternatives available in the culture at large; in that sense, socialism was the necessary (but not the sufficient) condition for a reconstruction of subjectivity. It w ill remain of the least importance to patch up politics, to become infected with social consciousness, or to do any of the other easy popu­ lar contemporary things unless, in some way, personality can be made to release itself on a middle plane between vaporous idealism and selfinterested practicality; unless, in short, self-fulfillment as an ideal can be substituted for self-assertion as an ideal. On the economic plane, this implies socialism; on every other plane it implies something which a m ajority of Americans in our day certainly do not possess— an object in living.0 In the end, Brooks suggested that this release of personality "on a middle plane" required the release of subjectivity from the grip of the male pro­ prietor; in other words, he suggested that the reconstruction of subjectivity as such required the incorporation of the feminine. At any rate he in­ voked the figure of the female in completing his argument. Throughout his new literary history, Brooks had insisted that the map of American culture was split between "highbrow" and "lowbrow" regions— for example, be­ tween "the cultivated public and the business public, the public of theory and the public of activity." One region was "largely feminine, the other largely masculine." The middle ground, where Walt Whitman had camped out and cooked up "a fresh democratic ideal, based upon the whole per­ sonality," was, then, both a usable literary past and a promising future for self-fulfillm ent. As past or future, this middle ground was an area where feminine and masculine mingled, where the male prerogative of "economic self-assertion" did not exhaust the meanings of selfhood. But Brooks had argued that if settlement of this area was made possible in view of Whitman's nineteenth-century survey, it was made necessary in view of the twentieth-


Between Consumers and Corporations

century "problem of surplus"; for the mere existence of surplus meant that Americans were now "faced with the problem not of making money but of spending it ." 34 As the designation or consumption of values became more significant than the production of values, the "feminine" regions on the map of American culture began to look like central places, not marginal enclaves.

The Priority of Class and the Production of Irony So far I have made three claims. I have claimed that the young intellectuals who came of age between 19 10 and 1920 posited a reconstruction of sub­ jectivity which they hoped would allow the articulation of the "whole per­ sonality"— of the "social self" whose ego-boundaries would be determined neither by ownership of private property nor by "economic self-assertion" but by association with others in managing the "collective property" of cul­ ture (e.g., parks, libraries, museums; religion, art, literature). I have also claimed that they understood this ongoing reconstruction as one dimension of a passage beyond the "socially necessary labor" residing in relations of production, a passage they described as the product of the "trust movement" and defined, with uncanny uniformity, in terms of surplus. 1 have claimed, finally, that they used the figure of the New Woman, or of the female, to ex­ press both their dissatisfaction with the priority of the principle of class and their sense of the possibilities waiting to be discovered in the regions be­ yond the realm of necessity, where consumption and its connotations would matter more than production and its requirements. Let me clarify this last claim before returning to the question of dif­ ferences between generations of young intellectuals. Like the marginalists who confronted the "socialistic writers," the young intellectuals of the early twentieth century did not avoid the category of class or ignore the reality of class struggle; they merely recognized the limits of class analysis and refused accordingly to accept, or to reinstate, the priority of class as a prin­ ciple of social theory and practice. In effect, they were following the lead of the economists, who had already shifted the focus of theory from the scene of "socially necessary labor" in relations of production— where M arx had insisted it belonged under the regime of modem industry— to a wider range of transactions, where the meanings of work and the values deter­ mined by mental labor were still unknown or unsettled. In this sense, the young intellectuals represented the implications of the new economics; they wanted a similar change of scene. They proposed to look beyond the realm of necessity for the sources of the self, but not because they wanted to Between Consumers and Corporations


escape the domain of "socially necessary labor" ruled by the laws of politi­ cal economy; like the marginalists, they believed that the boundaries of this domain were contracting, and that nineteenth-century notions of the "socially necessary" were probably too narrow, and too rigid, for use in the "age of surplus." So I am suggesting that where Nancy Cott sees privilege, the young intellectuals saw something else. Here is how she analyzes the "systematic prejudice" in the language of women who gave priority to the principle of gender: The woman's rights tradition was historically initiated by, and remains prejudiced toward, those who perceive themselves first and foremost as "woman," who can gloss over their class, racial, and other status iden­ tifications because they are culturally dominant and therefore relatively invisible. The privilege— or self-deception— of making gender more im­ portant than its attendant attributes has not been available, most obvi­ ously, to women of color in the United States, where race has been such a crucial marker, but neither does that angle of vision wholly match most women's experience.35 Now if Cott is correct to suggest that class and race are the "culturally domi­ nant" principles of social organization in the United States, and if class, like gender, is the product of difference, conflict, and struggle, then making gen­ der more important than its "attendant attributes" should become less than a privilege— indeed it should become the norm— when class is not, or is no longer, the characteristic (or "culturally dominant") product of difference, conflict, and struggle, as it clearly was in the late nineteenth century under the regime of modern industry. The question that follows, I think, is why and how class gives way in this sense to alternative principles of social orga­ nization such as race and gender. Does it recede when or where relations of production do not regulate all other social relations? Or is the priority of the principle of class a transhistorical feature of human experience? If we take the ontological priority of class for granted, we will eventu­ ally need words like privilege and self-deception to explain those who would act on alternative principles of social theory and practice— to explain, for example, not only the feminists and the young intellectuals of the early twentieth century but also the "new social movements" of the late twen­ tieth century. But if we do not take this priority for granted, we will not need such words and their connotations of "false consciousness." What is more important, we can then acknowledge that the priority of the prin­ ciple of class was determined by the development of capitalism. At any rate


Between Consumers and Corporations

we can acknowledge that the development of capitalism was animated as well as accompanied by an enormous expansion in the social and cultural significance of relations of production. It was here, in the realm of neces­ sity, in the "callings" through which the curse of labor became the cause of civilization, that the citizens of bourgeois society located their human nature and their political capacities. They treated political economy as if it were social theory; they learned accordingly to aggregate individuals and to define social roles in terms of their different productive functions. In other words, they invented class analysis as a way of making sense of their new civilization, in which commodity production could (and finally did) charac­ terize or mediate or reshape all forms of social intercourse. M arx simply followed their lead— he gave theoretical priority to the principle of class be­ cause he wanted to comprehend a society in which relations of production had become the regulative form of all social relations.3* But this was a provisional priority in the works that succeeded the Mani­ festo of 1848. As we have seen (in chapter 1), Marx believed that the beginning of the end of class society was announced in the perfection of commodity production under the regime of "large industry." In his view, the reproduction of the class relation between labor and capital, and with it the priority of the principle of class, required the continual "exchange of living labour for objectified labour [i.e., capital]." But this exchange was attenuated, he argued, by the appearance of "large industry," which devel­ oped by transmuting science into fixed capital and demanding that "living labour" give up the role of "chief actor" in the drama of commodity produc­ tion. Insofar as "living labour" was extricated from that drama, either by its assumption of ancillary roles— "the human being comes to relate more as watchman and regulator to the production process"— or by its expulsion from commodity production at the automatic extremity of "large indus­ try," the social and cultural significance of relations of production had to decline, or to change in ways that would tend to reduce the salience of class in everyday experience.37 If we adopted this approach, and assumed accordingly that the principle of class must recede when or where relations of production do not regulate all other social relations, we would not be confused or surprised or dismayed to find that the principle of class gives way to alternative principles of social theory and practice soon after the turn of the century; for the promises of "large industry" were realized at this moment, in the development of cor­ porate capitalism— or so I will presently argue. Nor would we be confused or surprised or dismayed to find that the most influential intellectuals of the early twentieth century identified with an international socialist moveBetween Consumers and Corporations


ment, yet refused to accept the priority of the principle of class in theory or practice; for we would not expect them to insist on the ontological priority of class any more than we would expect the "new social movements" of our own time to insist on the political priority of class struggle at the point of production. But if this periodization of the principle of class is plausible, it follows, I think, that the important differences between generations of young intel­ lectuals must be matters not of historical experience and consciousness but of sensibility and interpretation. In other words, if the impending passage beyond the categories of necessity, production, and class defines the twenti­ eth century as a unitary epoch, then what distinguishes the late-twentiethcentury critics of "mass society" and consumer culture is the form in which they have cast their historical narratives. On the basic historical facts, they do not disagree with their counterparts among the young intellectuals of the early twentieth century. So their distance from the "age of surplus" is more political (or aesthetic) than temporal; it is a distance determined by irony, not incommensurability. For example, all contestants agree that modern subjectivity as repre­ sented by the male proprietor, the figure of the freeholder, became an open question— even a political issue— around the turn of the century, when the proletarianization of males was practically complete. Then as now, the choices available to those who would reconstitute subjectivity as a way of reinstating the possibility of the moral personality were to situate the self in historical time or to reclaim the extratemporal space— the political econ­ omy of populism— in which the figure of the freeholder once flourished. To situate the self in historical time was, however, to acknowledge that subjec­ tivity was more effect than cause of social circumstances created in and by the past; it was to acknowledge the communities, solidarities, and traditions within which selfhood could become a goal. The question that followed was whether this "social self" could be autonomous and rational. Could it have "character," or would it be appropriated by others, and dominated by its desires? The mid-twentieth-century critics of "mass society" answered by equat­ ing the "social self" and the "other-directed self" of advertisers' dreams. The late-twentieth-century critics of consumer culture have answered in much the same way; they call this hybrid the "managed self." But in the early twentieth century, the leaders of the labor movement, the original feminists, the young intellectuals— and for that matter the older philoso­ phers and social scientists like Royce, James, and Dewey, Cooley, Angell, and Mead, Ely, Clark, and Patten— were much more ambiguous in ad­


Between Consumers and Corporations

dressing the same question.3* They were more ambitious as well. In fact they answered by changing the subject, by trying to redraw the boundary between self and society, reason and desire, mind and body, science and ideology. They claimed that rationality and its correlate in "character" were not the effects of abstraction or abstention from social context and purpose but the effects of implication in and engagement with particular commu­ nities, solidarities, and traditions. In short, they proposed to substitute the "social self" for the "man of reason." But they did not merely retouch the portrait of the republican citizen— in sketching the context and purpose of the "social self," they did not reinstate the classical notion of the political community as the scene of self-consciousness and self-mastery. Instead, they looked into the communities, solidarities, and traditions taking shape in civil society, where the commodity form already reigned; in doing so, they designed a postrepublican model of selfhood.3* I do not mean to suggest that the young (and old) intellectuals of the early twentieth century settled the significant questions raised by their recon­ struction of subjectivity— only we can do that. I mean that they addressed such questions in good faith, as if genuine selfhood could be salvaged from the wreckage of modern subjectivity by their efforts, and that we still have more to learn from their efforts than from the critique of consumer culture. I would claim, for example, that their notion of a "social self" was more inclusive than anything afforded by the inherited tradition, because it cast the proletarian male and the New Woman in the role of the moral person­ ality hitherto monopolized by the male proprietor. At the very least, we can safely say that their studies of the "social self" reopened the question of "character" and allowed for consideration of alternatives to the "man of reason." But why, then, do we not simply take these studies for granted, and get on with the search for a postmodern subjectivity? The short answer (part 2 is the long version) is that the critics of con­ sumer culture have reduced the "social self" to the "other-directed" or the "managed se lf"— the cousin, I take it, of the "authoritarian personality." By doing so, they have foreclosed discussion of the question of "character" and disallowed consideration of alternatives to the "man of reason" along lines drawn in the early twentieth century. We do not usually notice these "secondary" effects because the reduction of the social to the managed self is an ideological implication rather than an empirical operation. I mean that the critics of consumer culture begin not by arguing but by assuming that there is no alternative to modem subjectivity except the loss of self­ hood as such. The irony that regulates their critique derives, in turn, from that unstated assumption. For once they have assumed that the search for a Between Consumers and Corporations


postmodern subjectivity is pointless, and probably dangerous, the motives of the search party must seem either unintelligible or naive; if the narra­ tive they write to explain the search is not, strictly speaking, a satire, in which they feign ignorance of the search party's naïveté, it must be a story from which effective action is excluded, and in which most significant con­ sequences are unintended. This "non-heroic residue of tragedy" represents a world without illusions, to be sure, but only because its ironic form denies the possibility of redemption through effective action in the world.40 If we are to learn from the intellectual innovation of the early twentieth century, we must then go beyond the irony that condescends to this past and accordingly keeps us in exile from the present. That means going beyond the critique of consumer culture as it is currently conceived— as a moral polemic against proletarianization— and moving toward a position from which we may answer the question of "character" by changing the subject, that is, by recognizing alternatives to the "man of reason" who happens to be the male proprietor. In part 2 , 1 argue that pragmatism is the postrepublican "fram e of acceptance" we need to complete our inventory of these alterna­ tives. But we have already begun taking stock of the possibilities as soon as we realize that those who witnessed the completion of proletarianization in the late nineteenth century defined it as both problem and prospect. By all accounts, it was an event that challenged or discredited inherited ways of thinking about American society and conducting American politics. By some accounts, however, and perhaps most, it was a promising condition of social and political progress precisely because it challenged or discred­ ited the received tradition and made intellectual innovation necessary. And these accounts were not only or even mainly the handiwork of pro-capitalist hacks and "positive thinkers." In the 1890s, for example, John Dewey ar­ gued that the factory was an appropriate setting for the development of the moral personality. At this early stage of his career, Dewey was particularly interested in both the promise of an ethical theory animated by acknowledg­ ment of the "social se lf"— the urban-industrial worker served as his ideal type— and the meaning of epistemology if "speculation" in the markets by "the trusts" had become the paradigm of thought as such. His philosophical agenda was already a kind of cross-class construction.41 Notice that going beyond the critique of consumer culture turns out to mean moving back in time, toward the positions established by the genera­ tion that came of age around the turn of the century— toward the positions forgotten by the generation that came of age after midcentury. In the next chapter, I will try to demonstrate that this return to what has been repressed by historiographical irony is the best way to diagnose the symptoms of con­


Between Consumers and Corporations

sumer culture (and these would include its critics) as attempted cures of the ailments specific to corporate capitalism. I do not mean that we must somehow remove ourselves from our own time and regress to the standpoint of the turn of the century. We cannot abolish irony any more than we can prove that the young (and old) intel­ lectuals of the early twentieth century are immune to critical interrogation from our standpoint in the late twentieth century. But we can test their claims against the available evidence, by asking whether their notion of an "age of surplus" complicates our definition and completes our periodization of consumer culture.

Between Consumers and Corporations





189O-I94O From Cultural to Economic History We already know that both generations of young intellectuals agree that the central and characteristic event in the nation's coming of cultural age (ca. 1890-1930) is the reconstruction of selfhood or subjectivity. One gen­ eration treats this event as the erosion of genuine selfhood, the other as the articulation of new models for subjectivity; but both agree that it de­ fines the cultural transformation in question and sets the agenda for subse­ quent debates on related events. We also know that both generations agree that political-economic changes associated with (if not caused by) the large industrial corporations are key moments in the cultural history they have to write. One generation treats these changes as the "maturation of the national marketplace" enforced by "bureaucratic organizations," the other as an "age of surplus" devised by the "trust movement." Aside, then, from the crucial differences on how to interpret the threat to modern subjectivity residing in the completion of proletarianization under corporate auspices, what still separates the two generations is the difference between their ac­ counts of the same political-economic changes. Both sides evidently agree that we need to understand the emergence of corporate-industrial bureau­ cracies if we are to explain the cultural transformation in question. So we have to ask, which economic history makes for better cultural history? Since I have already claimed that the promises of what Marx called "large industry" were realized in the development of corporate enterprise, and that consumer culture resides in the transition from proprietary to corporate


capitalism, I have already revealed my preference for the economic history implied in the notion of an "age of surplus." I need, then, to demonstrate that the passage beyond the proprietary stage of capitalism contains a pas­ sage beyond the categories of necessity, production, and class, and that this moment in the larger transition authorizes the articulation of alternatives to modern subjectivity. I propose to do so by identifying and examining two distinct but overlapping phases in the development of corporate capitalism: emergence, ca. 1890 -1920 , and consolidation, ca. 19 10 -4 0 . Perhaps the best way to understand the emergent phase is to think of it as the corporate innovators themselves did— as an attempt to validate their claims on a share of national income, to enlarge their social prerogatives and economic functions, and accordingly to preclude the development of capitalism without capitalists. They wanted to preserve the civilizing con­ tent of capitalism by changing its social form. But to think of their bid for power in this way requires that we recall their complaints about the character of late-nineteenth-century economic growth. Without exception, influential observers of the American scene— whether populist or socialist or pro-capitalist— emphasized that economic growth after 1870 was simply phenomenal if measured in absolute terms. For example, in 1889, David A . Wells, the most influential of all observers, noted that since 1870, economic change was unquestionably "more important and varied than during any former corresponding period of the world's history." The "greater control over the forces of nature" produced by such change was self-evident. But like every other observer— again regardless of political propensities— he insisted that the question raised by rapid growth was the distribution of income. From his standpoint, the real problem revealed by late-nineteenthcentury "overproduction" was that capital did not, and probably could not, receive appropriate remuneration for its significant contribution to eco­ nomic growth. According to Wells, the primary beneficiary of that growth was skilled labor in the metalworking trades, not the more familiar figures from the ranks of "big business."1 When equipped with modem economic theory, we can revisit the winters of his discontent with a means of testing his claims. The relation between growth in real wages and in labor productivity is what concerns us, as Clarence D. Long explained in his i960 monograph on late-nineteenthcentury wages and earnings in the United States. "So large is labor's share of national income that any substantial disparity between productivity and real wages would exert great impact on the other shares— either largely expropriating them or presenting them with huge windfalls." If real wages

Corporate Capitalism


are increasing rapidly as a result of drastic price deflation, for instance, and labor productivity is not meanwhile increasing at a comparable rate, capital's share of national income w ill be "expropriated" (in Long's sense) by labor.2 Insofar as we can rely on professional economists and government re­ search volumes, we can say that this hypothetical situation corresponds to the historical reality of the late-nineteenth-century United States— that is, to the historical reality denounced by Wells and his allies. Price deflation and the consequent growth of real wages were not offset, it seems, by a comparable growth of labor productivity in the industrial sector (or by the effects of unemployment on the aggregate wage bill). But the disparity be­ tween growth in real wages and labor productivity is most noticeable in the later stages of the period, between 1884 and 1894. Productivity in the non­ farm sector barely improved over these ten years (0.6 percent per annum), yet real wages continued to increase rapidly (3 to 4 percent per annum), at a rate five or six times faster than productivity (see tables 1 and 2). This divergence of productivity and real wages is astonishing in view of what we know about absolute rates of growth in the late nineteenth century. What makes it even more astonishing is that the 1880s saw not only a doubling of the capital endowment per worker but the beginnings of a movement in industry toward the "rationalization" of work routines and cost control though "systematic management."5 So we can safely say that concern about a transfer of income from capi­ tal to labor was becoming eminently reasonable by 1890, and that labor productivity did not suffer for lack of trying by capitalists. Surely it is no accident that economists and capitalists alike repeatedly cited Wells as their authority in defining the central problem of economic development as a dis­ turbing distribution of income between profits and wages. In retrospect, the solutions to the problem of economic development so conceived seem obvi­ ous. On the supply side, capitalists who hoped to bring the growth of real wages and labor productivity into line had to reduce money wages, improve productivity by completing the mechanization of production, or increase prices by adjusting output to effective demand. But until the m id-i890s, capitalists in the industrial sector were price-takers, not price-makers, un­ less they had resorted to some form of extralegal combination in restraint of trade (e.g. pools and trusts). On the demand side, their only hope— at least for the time being— was foreign markets; that is why empire seemed so inviting a prospect in the 1890s. But late-nineteenth-century economists who studied European empires and American companies operating abroad stressed that the development of foreign markets was practically impos­ sible without the economies of scale promised in large corporate enterprise


Corporate Capitalism

T A B L E 1.

Declining Annual Growth in GNP

1869-78 to 1874-83 1874-83 to 1879-88 1879-88 to 1884-93 18 8 4 -9 31 0 1889-98

5.58% 4.76% 3.68% 2.55%

Source: Robert E. Gallman, "Gross National Product in the United States, 18 34 -19 0 9 ," Output, Employment, and Productivity in the United States after 1800 (New York: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1966), tables 2 (P- 9 )* 6 (p. 22). T AB L E 2 .

Annual Growth in GNP, by Categories


Per Capita

Per Work-Hour

1874-84 1884-94 1889-99

3.8% 0.6% 2.3%

3.2% 0.6% 2.3%

Overlapping Decades*

Per Worker

1878-82 to 1888-92 1883-8 7 to 1893-97 1888-92 to 1898-1902

1.0 % 0.58% 1.5 % 2.36%

189 3-9 7 » 19 0 3-7

Sources: U .S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Long-Term Growth, 1860-1970 (Washing­ ton, D .C .: GPO, 1973), pt. 5, charts 18 (p. 107), 20 (p. 109); Simon Kuznets, “ Notes on the Pattern of U.S. Economic Growth,“ in Economic Growth and Structure (New York: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1965), table 1 (p. 305). * Kuznets presumably used overlapping decades to reduce the statistical salience of unique events and to emphasize long-term trends.

(the reform of the banking system and the mobilization of the state's fiscal powers were salient but political entailments of empire).4 Capital's effective control of the supply side appeared, then, as the first step toward solving the problem of economic development as Wells and his allies had defined it, as a problem of distribution determined by the rela­ tion between labor and capital. As a practical question, however, effective Corporate Capitalism


control of the supply side meant effective control of that social relation, of the labor process itself. And here capitalists had only two choices— either to reduce money wages or to complete the mechanization of production. In the long run, mechanization was the more promising policy because it would simultaneously increase productivity and abolish or reduce the high labor costs associated with craft skill. In the short run, capitalists favored wage reductions. As Arthur T. Lyman, the treasurer of the Lowell Manu­ facturing Co., put it, "When profits disappear, wages must fall." But either policy embroiled capitalists in struggles they could not seem to win.5 For until the mid-to-late 1890s, skilled workers were able to enforce those social norms that sanctioned their control of machine production. Be­ fore then, the extent of the division of labor and the pace of mechanization at the point of production were largely determined not by management's technical rules of efficiency and profitability, but by work rules first en­ acted spontaneously by skilled craftsmen, then codified in union contracts, and ultimately enforced by strikes. John Frey, an experienced iron molder and a leading labor journalist, ascribed this power of skilled workers at the point of production to the indivisibility of mental and manual labor they maintained. "It is this unique possession of craft knowledge and craft skill on the part of a body of wage workers, that is, their possession of these things and the employers' ignorance of them, that has enabled the workers to organize and force better terms from the employers." From his stand­ point, the mechanization of industrial production was the higher education of the employers, because it presupposed and promoted a "separation of craft knowledge from craft skill"— in other words, it promised to reconsti­ tute and routinize in specialized machines the "scattered craft knowledge" of skilled workers, leaving them with only their "manual skill and dex­ terity" to sell in the labor market. "The machinery instead of the man is the brains," as a young machinist explained the result to a Senate committee in 1883.6 It was this fundamental division of mental and manual labor, not machine production or "industrialism" as such, that skilled workers and their allies fought with remarkable tenacity in the 1880s and 1890s. There are three ways to measure their success. First, money wages were not reduced to the extent that capitalists and managers wanted or sought between 1886 and 1894, largely because they could not impose longer hours on the labor force. Second, the "gross surplus" available to manufacturers— the share of reve­ nue from value added that industrial capitalists could retain after covering the wage bill— declined noticeably over the same years. Third, productivity growth virtually ceased until 1896.7 88

Corporate Capitalism

T A B L E 3.

Reasons for Strikes, 1881-190$

Years 18 8 1-8 5 1886-90 18 9 1-9 5 1896-1900 19 0 1-5

Working Conditions (excluding union recognition)

Working Conditions* (excluding wages)

22.8% 3 7 .1% 34.3%

30.6% 5 1.1% 49.7% 50.2% 60.7%

34.3% 3 1.6 %

Source: Adapted from P. K. Edwards, Strikes in the United States, 1881-1974 (New York: St. M artin's, 19 8 1), table 4.3 (p. 92). 1 "W orking conditions = hours, union recognition and rules, employment of certain persons, method and time of payment, work rules, discipline, etc.

But skilled workers were "successful* in this limited economic sense be­ cause they did not have to rely on the resources they could bring to bear at the point of production. They did not ignore or misuse their ultimate weapon, the strike— in fact, they struck more often as the battle over con­ trol of the workplace intensified in the late 1880s and early 1890s (see tables 3 and 4). Even so, skilled workers could not have succeeded in any sense if their identification with and access to the sources of political power and cultural authority had not protected or enlarged the meaning of their strikes. External forces of "law and order" could not determine the outcome of strikes in the 1880s, for example, because local officeholders, editors, and shopkeepers often supported striking workers (skilled and unskilled) against the large employers. To be sure, workers and local leaders convened this solidarity across class lines only insofar as they remained unable to acknowl­ edge the market power of corporate capital as a permanent or legitimate dimension of American society. But no matter how or why convened, such solidarity made strikebreaking and union busting much more difficult than they would soon become; skilled workers' claims at the point of production were accordingly less difficult to make, or to accept as plausible premises of local political action.* As the old and new labor history has shown, the winners of the battle against "systematic management" lost their subsequent war against the sci­ entific managers and the new industrial corporations. The corporate innovaCorporate Capitalism


4. Strikes and Their Resolutions, 1881-1905 TABLE

Number Years 18 8 1-8 5 1886-89 1890-93 1894-97 18 9 8 -19 0 1 1902-5

Results for Labor (% )






2 (P*r- 4-33# 182-98, and addition to par. 4). James is quoted from "Does Consciousness Exist?" (1904) in Writings 1902-1910, p. 114 5; Peirce is quoted from "The Architecture of Theories," originally published in Monist (1891), reprinted in Buchler, Philosophical Writings, 315-23, here 322. 55. The works of C. B. Macpherson and J.G.A. Pocock converge here if no­ where else. See C. B. Macpherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke (New York: Oxford University Press, 1962), esp. chaps. 3-4, and works by J.G.A. Pocock: "Early Modern Capitalism—the Augustan Perception," in E. Kamenka and R. S. Neale, eds., Feudalism, Capitalism and Beyond (London: Edward Arnold, 1975), pp. 62-83; The Machiavellian Moment, chaps. 13 -15 ; and "The Mobility of Property and the Rise of Eighteenth-Century Sociology," Virtue,


Notes to Pages 220 -22

Commerce, and History (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 10 324. On property and the "system of needs," see Hegel, Philosophy of Right, pp. 40-57,126-34 (par. 40-71,189-208), quoted from p. 42. On civil society as the sphere of noncoerrive social relations, where contract is the paradigm of all trans­ actions between individuals, see Wolin, Politics and Vision, chaps. 9-10, esp. pp. 299-314, and Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1965), chap. 3. 56. Again, Pocock and Macpherson converge here, on the proposition that argu­ ments over the meaning and functions of property must be understood as arguments about the moral capacity of the modern individual. We are still arguing, of course. For example, see the "Brief of 281 American Historians as Amici Curiae Support­ ing Appellees [In re: William L. Webster, et al., v. Reproductive Health Services, et al.]," Public Historian 12 (1990): 57-75, which ends as follows: "Apart from [the] devastating consequences to the lives and health of women, restricting access to abortion will again deny the fundamental legitimacy of women as moral decision­ makers." Cf. chapter 8, note 40, below, and Ronald Dworkin, "The Coming Battles over Free Speech," New York Review of Books, June 11,19 9 2 , pp. 55-58, 61-64, where the First Amendment appears as the predicate of moral agency and responsi­ bility; Michael J. Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982), where the "nature of the moral subject" resides in the "antecedent unity of the self," which means that "the subject, however heavily con­ ditioned by its surroundings, is always, irreducibly, prior to his values and ends, and never fully constituted by them" (pp. 15-23, 47-65, 120-22, 133-35, 14 772); and Owen Flanagan, Varieties of Moral Personality: Ethics and Psychological Realism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991), where the "psychological reality of a self-system construed as a substantial unity" becomes the predicate of the moral personality as such (see pp. 255-75). Chi the anxieties attending the nineteenth-century attachment of individual identity and alienable property, see, more generally, Michael Paul Rogin, Fathers and Children: Andrew Jackson and the Subjugation of the American Indian (New York: Knopf, 1975), chaps. 3-4; Walter Benn Michaels, "Romance and Real Estate," Raritan 2 (1983): 66-87; Horwitz, "The Standard Oil Trust as Emersonian Hero." 57. On James's attempt to reconstitute the moral personality by situating it in his­ torical time, see chapter 10 below; on Dreiser and naturalism, see chapter 6 above. Historians and partisans of populism (most historians are partisans) often evoke the "free social space" residing in the "culture of resistance" supposedly created by the Alliance and mourn the passing of the freeholder, because they are searching for what Christopher Lasch calls the "moral equivalent of an earlier form of pro­ prietorship"—that is, a way of reinstating "the principle that property ownership and the independence it confers are absolutely essential preconditions of citizen­ ship" (Christopher Lasch, The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics [New York: Norton, 1991], pp. 16, 223). I had not read Lasch's prodigious (yet unper­ suasive) study when I wrote this chapter; I was thinking instead of the new social and labor history on which he relies in defending artisans against innovation. But his argument nonetheless verifies my characterization of the choices available at the turn of the century (for example, see Lasch, Only Heaven, pp. 224-25,302-3, Notes to Pages 222-23


340-48) and fits my description of contemporary writers on the Left, in chapter 3 above and chapters 9-10 below. See esp. chapter 10, below, on the conflation o f the moral polemic against proletarianization and the twentieth-century critique o f capitalism; cf. also my "Reply to Gerald Berk," fourmi of Polio/ History 3 (199z): 85-89. My friend Marc Manganaro insists that the historical sensibility of high lit­ erary modernists is more ambiguous and complicated than my remarks here would suggest; see his important new book, Myth, Rhetoric, and the Voice of Authority (New Haven : Yale University Press, 1992), and his earlier collection of essays, Mod­ ernist Anthropology: From Fieldwork to Text (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990). My reply to him has been: yes, the modernists want to write a "poem in­ cluding history" (on which see Longenbach, Modernist Poetics of History), and yes, there is no poem more packed with historical details and references than the Cantos (with the possible exception of The Wasteland); even so, their sense of the past is quite similar to that of the Populists, simply because they cannot imagine a future without modern subjectivity and its attendant discontinuities—unless they are con­ templating the statist alternative that derives from their repudiation of that future. Cf. my discussion of Richard Rorty in chapter 10 below. 58. Cf. note 43 above and chapter 10 below. 59. Richard Rorty makes such a claim in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979); again, see chapter 10 below. 60. See Robert Westbrook, "Lewis Mumford, John Dewey, and the 'Pragmatic Acquiescence/" in Thomas P. Hughes and Agatha C. Hughes, eds., Lewis Mumford: Public Intellectual (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), pp. 301-22 and endnotes at 420-25; also see Blake, Beloved Community, pp. 226-27. h* chapter 9 below, 1suggest that Westbrook and Blake defend Dewey on the wrong grounds and that Mumford can be criticized for acquiescing to the romantic requirements of "authentic" selfhood.


1. See Randolph Bourne, "Twilight of Idols," New Republic, October 19 17 , re­ printed in Olaf Hansen, ed., The Radical Will: Randolph Bourne, Selected Writings, 19 11-19 18 (New York: Urizen, 1977), pp. 336-47, here 336,338, 347; Van Wyck Brooks, "Letters and Leadership" (1918), in Three Essays on America (New York: Dutton, 1934), pp. 115-90, here 168-83, 1 71~72> Harold Stearns, Liberalism in America (New York: Boni 8c Liveright, 1919), chap. 8, esp. pp. 179-84; also idem, America and the Young Intellectml (New York: George Doran, 1921), pp. 33, 40, 47. And see also the heartbreaking ten-page letter of Bourne to Brooks, March 2 8 ,19 18 , in Box 12, Van Wyck Brooks Papers, Van Pelt Library, Univer­ sity of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, in which Bourne, writing on the occasion of the publication of "Letters and Leadership," denounces the "cult of politics [that] had been inherent in the liberal intellectual's point of view long before the war." In my view, this letter is much more persuasive than the published works from 1917 because it addresses the actual consequences of the war in question, not war as such. Lewis Mumford, The Golden Day: A Study in American Culture and Experience


Notes to Pages 223-25

(New York: Horace Liveright, 1926), will hereafter be cited by page number in the text. 2. See Bertrand Russell, Philosophical Essays, rev. ed. (New York: Simon 8c Schuster, 1967), chaps. 3-4, and Émile Durkheim, Pragmatism and Sociology, trans. J. C. Whitehouse, ed. John B. Allcock (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983). Armand Cuvillier's preface to the 1955 French edition of Durkheim's lectures (see pp. xi-xxii) treats James and Dewey as if they were of largely antiquarian inter­ est, not enduring sources of controversy and innovation in European social theory (see, e.g., p. xiii: "Pragmatism now seems rather dull and out-of-date"). Allcock's introduction (pp. xxiii-xli and endnotes at 108-14) however, quite good; he explores European interest in pragmatism as if it was something more than an in­ explicable digression from serious philosophy and suggests that "the influence of Bertrand Russell's assessment of the movement" accounts for the neglect of prag­ matism in the United Kingdom (see 109 n. 3; on the intellectual stage of the United States, I would claim, Mumford plays Russell's role). Durkheim's obsession with James and pragmatism is of course evident in the 19 13-14 course of lectures that Marcel Mauss called "the high point of Durkheim's philosophical work" (quoted by Cuvillier in Pragmatism and Sociology, p. xi). But it is no less evident in the great work of 19 12, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, trans. Joseph Ward Swain (New York: Free Press, 1965), pp. 26 -33,1 69-73,227-30,235“ 36, 256-71,305-8, 362-65,405-13,465-96. Here Durkheim insists that his study of totemism serves as a solution to the "problem of knowledge" posed by the either/or choice between Hume and Kant; he insists, in other words, that it serves as a reply to the studies in radical empiricism which James published in 1904-5 (Durkheim read these in English, before they were collected for publication as a book in 1912), not just as an argument with The Varieties of Religious Experience, which appeared in 1902. Durkheim borrows the terms of the choice between empiricism and rationalism as James framed it in these studies of 1904-5 (on which see chapter 10 below) but pro­ poses another way of annulling the contradiction, while preserving the difference, between the "two doctrines," by correlating them, respectively, with individuals and society. On these and related matters of Durkheim's debts to both James and Charles Renouvier (the philosopher to whom James turned in curing himself of severe depression in 1872), see Allcock's introduction to Pragmatism and Sociology, pp. xxv-xxxiii, and Steven Collins, "Categories, Concepts or Predicaments?: Re­ marks on Mauss's Use of Philosophical Terminology," in M. Carrithers, S. Collins, and S. Lukes, eds., The Category of the Person (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 46-82, here 51-62. Henri Bergson's introduction to the 19 11 French edition of Pragmatism is chapter 8 of his Creative Mind, trans. Mabelle Andison (New York: Greenwood Press, 1968), pp. 248-60. On James and Bergson, see Ralph Barton Perry, The Thought and Character of William James, 2 vols. (Boston: Little, Brown 8c Co., 1935), 2:599-636. 3. Brooks quoted from "Letters and Leadership," pp. 168,168-69, x7° ' Stearns quoted from Liberalism in America, p. 184. 4. On the young intellectuals and the usable past, see Warren I. Susman, Culture as History: The Transformation of American Society in the Twentieth Century (New York: Pantheon, 1984), pp. 7-49,105-21, and endnotes at 291-99; Martin J. Sklar, Notes to Pages 225-27


"On the Proletarian Revolution and the End of Political-Economic Society," Radical America 3 (May-June 1969): 1-4 1; Casey Nelson Blake, "The Young Intellectuals and the Culture of Personality," American Literary History 1 (1989): 510-34, and Beloved Community: The Cultural Criticisms of Randolph Bourne, Van Wyck Brooks, Waldo Frank, and Lewis Mumford (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990); Christopher Lasch, The New Radicalism in America: The Intellectual as a Social Type (New York: Vintage, 1965), and The Agony of the American Left (New York: Vintage, 1969), chap. 2; Henry F. May, The End of American Innocence (New York: Knopf, 1959), part 3; Daniel Aaron, Writers on the Left (New York: Avon, i960), part 1 ; Nathan I. Huggins, Harlem Renaissance (New York: Oxford Univer­ sity Press, 1970), chaps. 2-5; Houston A. Baker, Jr., Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988); Harold Cruse, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual (New York: William Morrow, 1967), pp. 11-9 5 , 115-46; and Rosalind Rosenberg, Beyond Separate Spheres: Intellectual Roots of Modem Feminism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982), chaps. 5-7. See also Paul F. Bourke's fine essays "The Social Critics and the End of American Innocence: 190719 21," Journal of American Studies 3 (1969): 57-72, and "The Status of Politics 1909-1919: The New Republic, Randolph Bourne, and Van Wyck Brooks," ibid. 8 (1974): 171-202. 5. To be more specific, the portraits of James in the recent work of Cornel West, Robert Westbrook, and Frank Lentricchia bear little or no resemblance to the James I depict in chapter 5 and chapter 8 .1 have already suggested that he is not a "bourgeois individualist" as West claims in The American Evasion of Philosophy: A Genealogy of Pragmatism (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989), pp. 65-68; that he is not a "mugwump" as Westbrook claims in "Lewis Mumford, John Dewey, and the 'Pragmatic Acquiescence/ " in Thomas P. Hughes and Agatha C. Hughes, eds., Lewis Mumford: Public Intellectual (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), pp. 301-22 and endnotes at 420-25, esp. 420 n. 4; and that he is not committed to a "quasi-Cartesian subjectivity" as Lentricchia claims in Ariel and the Police (Madi­ son: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988), pp. 117 -2 7 . 1hope to demonstrate here­ after that it is a mistake to affiliate Mumford with pragmatism as Blake attempts in Beloved Community or to call James a neo-Romantic as Jacques Barzun does in A Stroll with William James (New York: Harper 8c Row, 1983), pp. 198-202. But I want to emphasize that these works are simply indispensable—my arguments with them should be read as evidence of their originality and importance. 6. See Blake, Beloved Community, pp. 226-27; Westbrook, "Pragmatic Acqui­ escence," p. 301; and Robert Westbrook, John Dewey and American Democracy (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991), pp. 130-37,380-87. 7. The exchange between Dewey and Mumford originally appeared in the New Republic of January 5 and 19 ,19 27; it is reprinted in Gail Kennedy, ed., Pragmatism and American Culture (Boston: D. C. Heath, 1950), pp. 49-57 (Mumford is quoted from p. 56). The Lewis Mumford Papers, Special Collections, Van Pelt Library, Uni­ versity of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, contain two unpublished contributions to this controversy: one (in Box 148, Folder 7125) is an untitled, undated three-page let­ ter to the editor of the New Republic (probably from 1927); the other (in Box 149, Folder 7168) is "Mr. Dewey's Critics and Sidney Hook," an eight-page response


Notes to Pages 228 -29

to Hook's "John Dewey and his Critics," New Republic, June 3 ,19 3 1 (reprinted in Kennedy, Pragmatism and American Culture, pp. 92-94), which, according to Mumford's handwritten annotation, the editors rejected (interestingly enough, in this second effort, Mumfoid claims that he "never pinned on Mr. Dewey the tag of the 'pragmatic acquiescence' "). Both contributions indicate that Mumford understood his role in the late 1920s and early 1930s as the curator of intellectual alternatives to pragmatism— in other words, that he understood its appeal and tried to preclude its triumph among left-wing intellectuals. It seems he lost the battle but won the war. 8. See the extraordinary essay by Rosalind Williams, "Lewis Mumford as a His­ torian of Technology in Technics and Civilization," in Hughes and Hughes, Lewis Mumford, pp. 43-65 and endnotes at 381-90. 9. See Charles Molesworth, "Inner and Outer: The Axiology of Lewis Mum­ ford," Leo Marx, "Lewis Mumford: Prophet of Organicism," and Casey Blake, "The Perils of Personality: Lewis Mumford and Politics after Liberalism," all in ibid., pp. 241-55,164-80, 283-300, and endnotes at 4 14 ,4 0 1-3,4 17 -20 ; cf. also Donald L. Miller, Lewis Mumford: A Life (New York: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1989), pp. 298-303, and the special issue of Salmagundi, no. 49 (1980): "Prophecy Reconsidered, Articles on Lewis Mumford." 10. Mumford to Brooks, August 17,19 35, in Robert Spiller, ed., The Van Wyck Brooks-Lewis Mumford Letters: The Record of a Literary Friendship (New York: Dutton, 1970), pp. 117 -18 ; the original is in Box 56, Folder 2, Mumford Papers. Bergson, Creative Mind, pp. 259-60. 1 1 . See Jacques Maritain, Bergsonian Philosophy and Thomism, 2d ed., traits. Mabelle Andison (New York: Greenwood Press, 1968), and John L. Stanley, ed., From Georges Sorel: Essays in Socialism and Philosophy, traits. John Stanley and Charlotte Stanley (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976), pp. 257-90 and endnotes at 354-66 (this is a selection from The Utility of Pragmatism). On Berg­ son, Georges Sorel, and Carl Jung in the intellectual life of early-twentieth-century Europe, see H. Stuart Hughes, Consàousness and Society: The Reorientation of Euro­ pean Social Thought, 1890-1930, rev. ed. (New York: Vintage, 1977), pp. 54-61, 9 0 -9 5,10 5-24 ,153-8 2 (Jung is quoted from p. 156); A. E. Pilkington, Bergson and His Influence: A Reassessment (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1976); John Stanley, "Editor's Introduction," in Stanley, From Georges Sorel, pp. 1- 6 1; and Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (London: Verso, 1985), pp. 36-42. 12. Bergson, "Introduction to Metaphysics" (1903), Creative Mind, pp. 187-237, here 217. According to James, this was "Bergson's most compendious statement of his doctrine"; see William James, Some Problems of Philosophy (Cambridge: Har­ vard University Press, 1979, following the Longmans Green ed. of 19 11), p. 53 n. 27. 13. Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution, traits. Arthur Mitchell (New York: Mod­ em Library, 1944, following the Henry Holt ed. of 19 11), p. 56, cf. pp. 50-104. In the preface, Mitchell thanks James for his "friendly interest" in producing the English translation of "Bergson's most important work." 14. Bergson quoted from ibid., p. 53 (cf. 357-85) and "Introduction to Meta­ physics," p. 224.

Notes to Pages 2 3 0 -}}


15. See M. H. Abrams, Natural Supematuralism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature (New York: Norton, 1971), esp. pp. 172-9 5,218 -25; Friedrich Schelling is quoted from p. 182. On the inner articulation of German idealism, see also Herbert Marcuse, Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory (1941; reprint, Boston: Beacon Press, i960), pp. 3-29; Charles Taylor, Hegel (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1975), part 1 ; and with regard to the key dif­ ferences between Schelling, Fichte, and Hegel, see G. A. Kelly, "Notes on Hegel's 'Lordship and Bondage/ " Review of Metaphysics 19 (1966): 780-802, and Georg Lukâcs, The Young Hegel, trans. Rodney Livingstone (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1975), pp. 241-9 4 ,4* 3- 4116. F.W.). Schelling, System of Transcendental Idealism, trans. Peter Heath (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1978), p. 219 (page references in the text hereafter). Bergson quoted from "Introduction to Metaphysics," p. 221. 17. Bergson quoted from "Introduction to Metaphysics," pp. 200, 236; from "Philosophical Intuition," an address to the Philosophical Congress in Bologna, April 19 11, in Creative Mind, pp. 126-52, here 147; and again from "Introduc­ tion to Metaphysics," p. 192. On Schelling's aesthetics, see F.W.). Schelling, The Philosophy of Art, trans. and ed. Douglas Stott (Minneapolis: University of Min­ nesota Press, 1989); the editor's introductions at pp. xxvii-lv, 3-19 , are quite good because they are animated by resentment of Hegelian hegemony in the domains of both philosophy and aesthetics. On Schelling's broader agenda, see Martin Heideg­ ger, Schelling’s Treatise on the Essence of Human Freedom, trans. Joan Stambaugh (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1985)—this is a transcript of a lecture course Hei­ degger gave at the University of Freiburg in 1936—and James Engell, The Creative Imagination: Enlightenment to Romanticism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981), pp. 248-50,301-27. 18. Brooks quoted here from Blake, Beloved Community, pp. 233, 243; on the breakdown, see generally ibid., pp. 229-47, hut also James Hoopes, Van Wyck Brooks: In Search of American Culture (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1977), chap. 7. Brooks simply could not reconcile the extreme discontinuities of modern subjectivity; but they were all he had left once he could no longer com­ mit himself to some version of American culture. "A people is like a ciphered parchment," he wrote in 1915, "that has to be held up to the fire before its hid­ den significances come out" (America’s Coming-of-Age, in Three Essays, p. 109). Ten years later, he could not decipher the American people; and so his life stopped making sense. The manuscript of the Emerson biography was completed in 1926 but was not published by E. P. Dutton until 1932, after Mumford and others (including Eleanor Brooks) had intervened on Brooks's behalf (see Spiller, Letters, pp. 5663, and Hoopes, Van Wyck Brooks, pp. 173-78,188-9 1). On Poe's experiments of the 1830s, see my "Subjectivity and Slavery in Poe's Autobiography of Ambitious Love," Psychohistory Review 21 (1993): 175-96. 19. See Steve Golin, The Fragile Bridge: Paterson Silk Strike, 1923 (Philadel­ phia: Temple University Press, 1988); Rebecca Zurier, Art for the Masses: A Radi­ cal Magazine and Its Graphics, 1921-1917 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1988); Bourke, "End of American Innocence," esp. pp. 61-65; Cruse, Negro Intel-


Notes to Pages 233-35

leetual, pp. 22-32; May, End of American Innocence, pp. 279-329; and Miller, Mumford, chaps. 4-6, esp. pp. 10 1-14 . 20. Bergson quoted from "Introduction to Metaphysics," pp. 193-94, r 9 1 > 225-30. For a good introduction to Bergsonian intuition, see Leszek Kolokowsld, Bergson (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985), chaps. 2-4. Bergson's flight from symbols reminds me of the poetry of William Carlos Williams as Wallace Stevens interpreted it (that is, as antipoetic) but also of the antisymbolic economics of Ezra Pound, for example in "ABC of Economics" (1933) and "A Visiting Card" (1942,1952), in Selected Prose, 1909-1965, ed. William Cookson (London: Faber, 1973), pp. 233-64, 306-65. On these and related matters of interpreting mod­ ernism in the political-economic mode, see Alec Marsh, "The Money Question and the Poetry of Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams" (Ph.D. diss., Rutgers University, 1993). 2 1. Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modem World (New York: Mentor Books, 1948), p. 148. 22. See Miller, Mumford, chap. 14, and Blake, Beloved Community, pp. 260-65. 23. Lewis Mumford, Herman Melville (New York: Harcourt, Brace 8c Co., 1929), page references in the text hereafter. 24. In Beloved Community, pp. 263-65, 291-95, Blake emphasizes just this "social and participating self"; I am more doubtful about its resilience and centrality in Mumford's thought. 25. Mumford, The Golden Day, p. 190. 26. On Shelley's interpretation of Milton's Satan, see Abrams, Natural Super­ naturalism, pp. 299-300, and, better yet, William Empson, Milton's God (London: New Directions, 1961), which is itself a brilliant variation on this romantic theme. 27. Cf. C.L.R. James, Mariners, Renegades, and Castaways: The Story of Herman Melville and the World We Live In (New York: C. L. R. James, 1953), chaps. 1 3, and F. O. Matthiessen, American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman (New York: Oxford University Press, 1941), pp. 431-66. 28. Blake, Beloved Community, p. 286, and "Politics after Liberalism" in Hughes and Hughes, Lewis Mumford, esp. pp. 292-96. Cf. Donald L. Miller, "The Myth of the Machine: Technics and Human Development," ibid., pp. 152-63 and endnotes at 399-401; and see also Christopher Lasch, "Lewis Mumford and the Myth of the Machine," Salmagundi, no. 49 (1980): 4-28. 29. See chapter 10 below. 30. See Rosalind Williams, "Mumford as a Historian of Technology," in Hughes and Hughes, Lewis Mumford, pp. 43-65 and endnotes at 381-90; also Mumford to Brooks, July 19 ,19 35, in Spiller, Letters, pp. 114 -15 , and, better yet, Mumford to Brooks, June 2 1,19 33 , in Box 56, Folder 2, Mumford Papers: "By now my book has expanded into three books: one on machines, which covers incidentally the major problems of economics . . . the second on cities, which will cover politics . . . and the third on the Personality, which will bring everything together." In a draft, un­ published preface to Waldo Frank, ed., America and Alfred Stieglitz (Garden City, N. Y. : Doubleday, 1935), Mumford concluded on the same note: "The final product of art, however, is not a picture, a poem, a statue, a photograph: the final prod-

Notes to Pages 2 3 6 -4 1


uct is a personality" (Box 109, Folder 6641, Mumford Papers). Page references to Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization (New York: Harcourt, Brace 8c Co., 19 3 4 , 1963), will hereafter be given in the text. 3 1. See Waldo Frank's review, "Dawn and Dusk," in his collection of essays. In the American Jungle (New York: Farrar 8c Rinehart, 1937), pp. 176-77. 32. See Blake, Beloved Community, pp. 279-87. 33. But Mumford deserves credit for discovering what Donald Lowe calls the "perceptual revolution of 1905-15" (Donald M. Lowe, History of Bourgeois Percep­ tion [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982], chap. 6). 34. The centrality of Francis Bacon in the arguments of both books might sug­ gest that Technics was written in response to Reconstruction in Philosophy ; surely the two books were equally focused on what Dewey called the "transition period," 1400-1800. But Mumford was more likely to associate the period with the "col­ lapse of form"; in this sense, he never moved beyond the paradoxes that dominate his early notes for what became Technics (notes in Box 104, Folder 6577, Mumford Papers). For example, a note dated September 3,1929, reads in part: "The short step from Bacon to Defoe. Defoe gives the rationale of the mechanical world: he makes its motives explicit. . . . Science reduces universe to matter 8c motion: economics reduces social world to goods 8c money; philosophy to a [story?] of sensations. Custom, tradition, habit, art, poetry become incidental to main business of life." The Mumford who speaks here as if art as such does not express what is evident yet unknown in the present, in view of the past, but rather preserves and formal­ izes folkways (custom, tradition, habit) from the past, sounds very much like my colleague Jackson Lears, who, if I am not mistaken, now seems to believe that cul­ ture consists in, and that art requires, the retrieval of "things themselves" from the clutches of the commodity form (see, for example, his forthcoming book Fables of Abundance: American Advertising and American Culture, 1820-1970, chap. 8). So I would paraphrase Kenneth Burke's characterization of Whitman and James: is not Mumford the noetic replica of Lears? 35. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature (1837), in Alfred R. Ferguson, ed., The Col­ lected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 3 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971), 1:7-4 5 (page references in the text hereafter). 36. To my mind, the best treatments of these unnatural acts are Geza Roheim, The Origin and Function of Culture (Garden City, N. Y. : Doubleday, 1971), pp. 5 194, and Taylor, Hegel, pp. 87-88. Cf. Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964). 37. Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Man the Reformer," in Ferguson, Collected Works 1:14 5-6 0 (page references in the text hereafter). There is an impending debate between Christopher Lasch, Richard Poirier, and Michael Gilmore on Emerson's attitude toward the market, or rather toward the commodification of labor. I think Poirier and Gilmore are closer to the truth of the matter because they see that Emer­ son remained ambiguous about the commodity form as such, whereas Lasch desig­ nates him as the founding father of the populist tradition that defines proletarian­ ization—the commodification of labor—as the negation of self-determination and thus of democracy. Even so, 1think Lasch's argument serves as a salutary reminder of Emerson's essentially artisanal attitude toward work, necessity, and freedom.


Notes to Pages 24 1-4 9

See Christopher Lasch, The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Us Critics (New York: Norton, 1991), pp. 261-79,546-51; Richard Poirier, Poetry and Pragmatism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992), chap. 1 ; and Michael T. Gilmore, American Romanticism and the Marketplace (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985)* PP- »3-3838. On the decline of socially necessary labor after 1919, see esp. Sydney H. Coontz, Productive Labour and Effective Demand (New York: A. M. Kelley, 1966), pp. 125-58, and Sklar, "On the Proletarian Revolution," but also chapters 1 and 3 above. 39. In my view, the new social and cultural history finally fails precisely because poiesis becomes the regulative principle of its critique of capitalism—on which see chapter 10 below. But see also Lasch, True and Only Heaven, chap. 5, in which the author argues that the new social history succeeds as a critique of capitalism pre­ cisely because it is regulated by this artisanal principle. On the larger questions of abstract, social labor as against the ancient, artisanal model of poiesis, see Manfred Riedel, Between Tradition and Revolution: The Hegelian Transformation of Political Philosophy, trans. Walter Wright (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984), chaps. 1,5 ; Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958), chaps. 3-4; and an essay that addresses these questions in studying the Frankfurt School: Axel Honneth, "Work and Instrumental Action," New German Critique, no. 26 (1982): 31-54. (Like Lasch, Blake, and their compatriots on the American Left, Honneth believes that the standpoint of critique of the division of labor must be artisanal or craft skill, that is, the moment before "universal mecha­ nization" under the auspices of scientific management destroys the integrity of the labor process—as he puts it, "moral knowledge [is] embodied in acts of work which maintain their autonomy even in the organizational reality of externally determined work relations" [p. 54]—but his essay is nonetheless illuminating). 40. Blake, Beloved Community, pp. 4-9,140-44, 301-3. Mumford's "artisanal critique" of modem-industrial capitalism is carried to its logical and politically poignant conclusion in Lasch's True and Only Heaven.


1. Donald Davidson, "The Myth of the Subjective," in Michael Krausz, ed., Relativism: Interpretation and Confrontation (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1989), pp. 159-72, here 160 (page references in the text hereafter). 2. See John P. Murphy, Pragmatism: From Peirce to Davidson (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1990), pp. 95-98. The quoted remark is from "Pragmatism as AntiRepresentationalism," Richard Rorty's introduction to Murphy's book, pp. 1-6 , here 5. 3. On James's preparations of 1897-1904, see Notebooks 1 0 ,1 1 , and 12 in the William James Papers (bMSAm 1092.9), Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts (James understood these journals as parts of a whole; for example, what the Houghton Library calls Notebook 12 begins, "The 'pure experi­ ence' hypothesis/Continuation of Book II, p. 35," where "Book II" refers to what Notes to Pages 251-57


the Houghton Library calls Notebook n ). Notebook 10 contains forty-five double­ sided pages, Notebook 1 1 contains twenty-eight double-sided pages, and Notebook 12 contains fifty-five double-sided pages. Except for the last ten pages of Notebook 12, these writings date from the period 1895-98 and, particularly in 1898, are full of questions and answers that will reappear in the essays of 1904-5. For example, the entry dated April 15,1898, concludes by claiming that the "portions" of the field of experience "become cognitive only through the field changing into later fields." This passage, which is marked in blue pencil, is from pp. 43-44 of Notebook 12. See also Ralph Barton Perry, The Thought and Character of William James, 2 vols. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1935), 2:363-74, and John J. McDermott's indispensable introduction to the Harvard University Press edition of Essays in Radical Empiricism (Cambridge, 1976), pp. xi-xlviii. Regarding the "Chicago School" and its relation to radical empiricism, see James, "A World of Pure Experience," in ibid., p. 27 n. 2, and the editorial note (27.34) at p. 167; see also his review, "The Chicago School," Psychological Bulletin, January 15,1904, reprinted in William James, Writings 19021910, comp. Bruce Kuklick (New York: Library of America, 1987), pp. 1136-40, and Darnell Rucker, The Chicago Pragmatists (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1969). The 1903 exchange of letters between James and Dewey in the James Papers (esp. William James to John Dewey, March 1 1 , March 23, October 17,19 03) is even more illuminating, for it demonstrates, among other things, that James was thoroughly familiar with Dewey's published work in the professional Journals. In his letter of March 23, James wrote: "What you write of the new school of truth both pleases and humiliates me [here James refers to his own letter of March 11, in which he claimed to 'see an entirely new "school of thought" forming']. It hu­ miliates me that 1had to wait till I read [A. W.) Moore's article before finding how much on my own lines you were working. Of course I had welcomed you as one coming nearer and nearer, but 1 had missed the central root of the whole business, and I shall now re-read you (I had read all the articles . . . ) and try again a hack [?] at Mead and Lloyd of whom 1have always recognized the originality, but whom I have found so far unassimilably obscure. I fancy that much depends on the place one starts out from—you have all come from Hegel. . . , I from empiricism, and though we reach much the same goal it superficially looks different from the oppo­ site sides." Here James finally recognizes that the ungainly hybrid of pragmatism could, and did, thrive on Hegelian grounds. Cf. chapter 8, note 35, above, but also William James, A Pluralistic Universe (1909), lecture 3, "Hegel and His Method," in Writings, pp. 668-89, and James's weirdly appreciative essay on Benjamin Paul Blood, "A Pluralistic Mystic," in Henry James, Jr., ed., Memories and Studies (New York: Longmans Green, 19 11), pp. 369-411, here 376-80. 4. Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modem World (1925; New York: Mentor, 1948), p. 143. 5. See volume 3 of Jo Ann Boydston, ed.,John Dewey: The Middle Works, 15 vols. (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1976). See also works by John Dewey: "Reality as Experience," Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods 3 (1906): 253-57, here 10 1-6 , esp. 102 n. 1 ; "The Experimental Theory of Knowledge," Mind, n.s., 15 (1906): 293-307, here 107-27, esp. 123 n. 1 1 ; "Experi­


Notes to Page 258

ence and Objective Idealism," Philosophical Review 15 (1906): 465-81, here 128-44, esp. 142 n. 13 ; "The Postulate of Immediate Empiricism," Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods 2 (1905): 393-99, here 158-67, esp. 16 1 n. 5. "The Realism of Pragmatism" first appeared in ibid., 324-27, and is reprinted in Boydston, Middle Works 3:153-57, quoted from p. 156. Dewey's letter to James is quoted in Perry, Character of William James 2:526. 6. See Perry, Character of William James 2:525, and John Dewey, "The Ego as Cause," Philosophical Review 3 (1894): 337-41, reprinted in Jo Ann Boydston, ed., John Dewey: The Early Works, 5 vols. (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1971), 4:9 1-9 5, here4:95 n. 4. 7. John Dewey, "The Vanishing Subject in the Psychology of James," Journal of Philosophy y j (1940): 589-99, quoted remarks from pp. 599,596,598-99. 8. James quotes Kierkegaard in "How Two Minds Can Know One Thing," Jour­ nal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods 2 (1905): 176 -8 1, the fourth installment in what became the Essays ht Radical Empiricism, pp. 61-67, h*re 65 n. 6. On the return of the repressed, see Norman O. Brown, Life against Death: The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History (Middletown, Conn. : Wesleyan Univer­ sity Press, 1959), chaps. 3-10 ; Jean Laplanche, Life and Death in Psychoanalysis, trans. Jeffrey Mehlman (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976), esp. chaps. 2-3. On desublimation and deterritorialization, see Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization (Boston: Beacon Press, 1955), esp. chaps. 4 ,10 ; and Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Robert Hur­ ley, Mark Seem, and Helen R. Lane (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983), chap. 3. It is worth noting here that long before the transatlantic rediscovery of Freud in the 1950s, social theorists suggested that the transition to Taylorized capitalism evident in the "trust movement" would mobilize earlier, apparently ar­ chaic forms of social-cultural development; for example, see Simon N. Patten, The New Basis of Civilization (New York: Macmillan, 1907), p. 91, and Georg Lukics, "Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat" (1922), in History and Class Consciousness, trans. Rodney Livingstone (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1971), pp. 83222, here 93. 9. See Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process, trans. Edmund Jephcott, 2 vols. (New York: Pantheon, 1978), esp. chap. 2 (pp. 51-217) of vol. 1 and chap. 2 (pp. 91-225) of vol. 2, but also the "Synopsis" of vol. 2, esp. pp. 270-300; Klaus Theweleit, Male Fantasies, trans. Stephen Conway, Erica Carter, and Chris Turner, 2 vols. (Min­ neapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987,1989), esp. 1:300-363; Norman Bryson, Vision and Painting: The Logic of the Gaze (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983), chaps. 3-6; and Walter J. Ong, The Presence of the Word (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967). 10. See esp. Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chi­ cago Press, 1958), chap. 6; also E. A. Burn, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modem Science, rev. ed. (Garden City, N .Y.: Doubleday, 1955). 1 1 . Rorty quoted from his Philosophy and the Minor of Nature (Princeton : Prince­ ton University Press, 1979), p. 377. 12. The historical logic I follow here is that of Alasdair MacIntyre, "The Relation­

Notes to Pages 259 -6 2


ship of Philosophy to Its Past," in Richard Rorty, ). B. Schneewind, and Quentin Skinner, eds., Philosophy in History (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984), pp. 31-48; but cf. Rorty, Mirror, p. 316. 13. Since I have previously quoted "Does Consciousness Exist?" from the Library of America edition of James, Writings 1902-1910, pp. 114 1-5 8 ,1 will continue to do so (page references in the text hereafter). On James's preparations for the Emer­ son centenary, see esp. Notebook 20 in James Papers (bMSAm 1092.9), which is crammed with citations of, excerpts from, and commentary on Emerson's works. 14. If Howard Feinstein's psychoanalytical account of James is credible (and I think it is), this reference to "a paint of which the world pictures were made" is quite significant; for it recasts the language of the "murdered self"—that is, of the painter James once wanted desperately to become. See Howard M. Feinstein, Becoming William James (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984), esp. chaps. 78. In the journal the Houghton Library calls Notebook 12, "Book III, Seminary of 1897-98, Theoretic psychology [and] Seminary of 1903-4," James reminds himself of the metaphor: "Work the menstruum-simile, in which oil, size, or water stands for consciousness, while the object is made up of pigments held in suspension or solution" (p. 51). This entry is almost certainly from 1903. 15. William James, "A World of Pure Experience," Essays in Radical Empiricism, pp. 21-44 (page references in text hereafter). 16. On the question of the relation between particular and universal or parts and wholes, see Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Knowledge and Politics (New York: Free Press, 1975), pp. 121-44. 17. This "bundle of sensations" is David Hume's specification of the self; see R. J. Butler, "T and Sympathy," Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, supplementary vol. 49 (1975): 1- 20. 18. See J.G.A. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975), part 3, esp. chaps. 13 -15 (pp. 526-52 are particularly relevant to my argument, quoted from pp. 548-49). Like most historians, I have some serious reservations about Pocock's insistence on the centrality of republicanism (of Harrington as against Locke) in the American political tradition. But I think it is pointless to try to prove him "wrong" about the proportionate significance of, say, Daniel Defoe in the reading and political actions of North Americans; for the American Revo­ lution was neither liberal (Lockean) nor republican (Harringtonian): it was both, and was greater than the sum of these parts. Pocock's great achievement is to have illuminated the uneasy relation between modern political theory and practice, by showing how the notion of a moral personality residing in modem ideas about selfdetermination has mediated between these domains. In view of that achievement, 1 believe it is almost churlish to criticize him. 19. Ibid., pp. 534-45, 550-51. I say that Pocock and Louis Hartz converge be­ cause both prove that Werner Sombart's question about socialism in North America is irrelevant to the political tradition it purports to address. They teach us that what we have to explain is neither the practical absence nor the theoretical emptiness of socialism in the United States (and, for that matter, in western Europe) but rather the blindness of contemporary writers on the Left to the political possibilities that


Notes to Pages 263-74

already exist in the social and economic theories of twentieth-century American intellectuals. I have been arguing in part 2, for example, that the United States may well lack a Marxist intellectual tradition—although the work of Lee Benson in Turner and Beard: American Historical Writing Reconsidered (Glencoe, 111. : Free Press, i960), should have put even this article of faith in doubt—but it has never wanted fora Hegelian tradition: Peirce and (in his own way) James were right to be­ lieve that pragmatism represented the recuperation of this very tradition in North America, long before it became fashionable in continental Europe. My thinking on these matters has been clarified by correspondence and conversation with Martin J. Sklar, who is himself a major theorist of socialism in the United States. Cf. Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1955), esp. part 5. 20. William James, "La notion de conscience," translated as "The Notion of Con­ sciousness" by Salvatore Saladino in Essays in Radical Empiricism, appendix 3, pp. 2 6 1-71, here 268. This was a communication made at the Fifth International Con­ gress of Psychology in Rome, April 30,1905, which James described as a "resume" of his series of articles on radical empiricism; the French original is at pp. 105-17. 21. See Arendt, Human Condition, pp. 58-73, esp. 62 n. 58, 66 n. 70; Pocock, Machiavellian Moment, chaps. 13-14 ; C. B. Macpherson, The Political Theory of Pos­ sessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke (New York: Oxford University Press, 1962), chaps. 3-5; Edmund S. Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia (New York: Knopf, 1975), pp. 61-69, 236-39, 319-27, 38087; Isaac Kramnick, Bolingbroke and His Circle (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968), chaps. 2-3, 7-9; and David L. Jacobson, ed., The English Libertarian Heritage: From the Writings of John Trettchard and Thomas Cordon (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1965), "Cato's Letters" nos. 84 and 94, at pp. 211-24. CL also chapter 8, note 56, above. 22. James Madison quoted from his remarks in convention, June 26,1787, in Max Farrand, ed., The Records of the Federal Convention of 1767, 4 vols. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 19 11), 1:422-23. 23. James Madison quoted from his "Observations on Jefferson's Draft of a Con­ stitution for Virginia" (1787 ?) in Julian P. Boyd, ed., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 34 vols. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950-), 6:308-17, here 310. Madi­ son's observations become all the more poignant when we recall that for the men of his generation, "Kentucky" was a metaphor of social equality and natural plenty as well as a place; for example, John Breckenridge called it "the Eden of America." See Michael Paul Rogin, Fathers and Children: Andrew Jackson and the Subjugation of the American Indian (New York: Knopf, 1975), p. 77, and Henry Nash Smith, Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1950; Vintage Books ed., New York: Random House, n.d.), pp. 146-49. 24. James Madison quoted from his remarks in convention, August 7,17 8 7, in Farrand, Records 2:203-4, and again from "Observations on Jefferson's Draft," in Boyd, Papers 6 :310. In Possessive Individualism, chap. 3, Macpherson explains how and why the modern proletariat was defined, even in radically democratic politi­ cal theory and practice, as both "exogenous" and instrumental; but see also works cited at note 21 above. Women were similarly defined, of course, as the works Notes to Pages 275-77

3® 1

of Susan Möller Oldn, Jean B. Elshtain, Carole Pateman, Genevieve Lloyd, and others demonstrate; see, for example, Genevieve Lloyd, The Man of Reason: "Mate" and "Female" in Western Philosophy (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), chaps. 3-5. I have work in progress through which 1am trying to explain how and why pragmatism and feminism raise the same questions for political phi­ losophy. My point of departure is Linda J. Nicholson's Gender and History: The Limits 0/ Social Theory in the Age of the Family (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), which shows that the breakdown of a household economy and the con­ sequent entry of females into civil society compose the turning point in the making of a feminist sensibility. 25. Kenneth Burke, Attitudes toward History, rev. ed. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1961), pp. 19-44, 92-107, quoted from p. 20. The best reading of Burke 1know is Frank Lentricchia, Criticism and Social Change (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983); but see also William H. Rueckert, Kenneth Burke and the Drama of Human Relations, 2d ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982). 26. See Hilary Putnam, Reason, Truth, and History (New York: Cambridge Uni­ versity Press, 1981), chaps. 5-7; Davidson, "Myth of the Subjective," pp. 16 3-7 1; and Rorty, Mirror, chap. 7 (quoted from p. 316). 27. See Alasdair MacIntyre, "Relativism, Power, and Philosophy," in Krausz, Relativism, pp. 182-204 (quoted from p. 184), and Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modem Identity (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989), chaps. 2-7,23-2$. 28. If it was not Sophocles who first asked whether the social roles provided by the polis exhausted the possibilities of selfhood, he was the first to ask the question as if the answer had to take the form of a dramatic narrative—that is, a story. See Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981), chap. 1 1 . Rorty is quoted from Mirror, p. 318. 29. See Richard Rorty, "Dewey's Metaphysics," in Steven M. Cahn, New Studies in the Philosophy of John Dewey (Hanover, N.H.: University of Press of New England, 1977), pp. 45-74, here 61-62,60; cf. Rorty, Mirror, p. 368 n. 13. Richard Bernstein, "Philosophy in the Conversation of Mankind," Review of Metaphysics 33 (1980): 744-75, is an incisive critique of Rorty's book from which I have learned a great deal. More recent and more strident arguments about Rorty's positions are Sheldon S. Wolin, "Democracy in the Discourse of Postmodernism," Social Re­ search 57 (1990): 5-30, and Richard J. Bernstein, "Rorty's Liberal Utopia," ibid., 31-72. But see also Thomas McCarthy, "Private Irony and Public Decency: Richard Rorty's New Pragmatism," Critical Inquiry 16 (1990): 355-70, with an exchange between Rorty and McCarthy at ibid., 633-55, “ id Nancy Fraser, "Solidarity or Singularity?: Richard Rorty between Romanticism and Technocracy," Unmly Prac­ tices: Power, Discourse, and Gender in Contemporary Social Theory (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989), pp. 93-110. Fraser's essay is particularly in­ sightful and, for my purposes, quite useful; she demonstrates that Rorty is caught between what I have called the extremes of modern subjectivity, that is, between romanticism and positivism (see chapters 8-9 above). Fraser calls these extremes romanticism and pragmatism, as Lewis Mumford did in Technics and Civilization (New York: Harcourt, Brace 8c World, 1934) and as Casey Blake does in "The Perils


Notes to Pages 278-82

of Personality: Lewis Mumford and Politics after Liberalism," in Agatha C. Hughes and Thomas P. Hughes, eds., Lewis Mumford: Public Intellectual (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), pp. 283-300 (endnotes at 417-20), e.g., at 287. Of course I think it is a mistake to equate pragmatism and positivism (or utilitarianism), as Fraser seems to do in reducing pragmatism to "liberal problem-solving"; but her central claim, with which I fully agree, is that a genuinely romantic version of (or a strictly aesthetic argument for) pragmatism is ultimately incoherent. 30. Richard Rorty, "Solidarity or Objectivity," originally in John Rajchman and Cornel West, eds., Pöst-Analytic Philosophy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 3-19 , reprinted in Richard Rorty, Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), pp. 21-34, here 30 (page references in text hereafter). 3 1. Richard Rorty, "Postmodernist Bourgeois Liberalism," originally in Journal of Philosophy 80 (1983): 583-89, reprinted in Rorty, Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth, pp. 197-202, here 200 (page references in text hereafter). Elias is quoted from Civilizing Process 2:236; cf. Hegel's analysis of civil society in The Philosophy of Right, trans. T. M. Knox (New York: Oxford University Press, 1942), par. 187, p. 124: "Individuals in their capacity as burghers in this state are private persons whose end is their own interest. This end is mediated through the universal which thus appears as a means to its realization. Consequently, individuals can attain their ends only in so far as they themselves determine their knowing, willing, and acting in a universal way and make themselves links in this chain of social connections." 32. Michel Foucault, "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History," in Donald F. Bouchard, ed., Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews, trans. Donald F. Bouchard and Sherry Simon (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977), pp. 139—64, esp. 146,150-54,160-64, here 154; cf. Foucault's "What Is an Author?," in ibid., pp. 113-38 , esp. 120-24. On the question of discontinuity, see also the following works by Foucault: "History, Discourse, and Discontinuity," Salmagundi 20 (1972): 225-48; The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (New York: Pantheon, 1971), pp. xxii-iii, 125-38, 269-79; and The Archaeology of Knowledge, trans. A. M. Sheridan Smith (New York: Pantheon, 1972), esp. part 4, pp. 166-77 (s«* below for comment on these pages). And see Frank Lentricchia, "Michel Foucault's Fantasy for Humanists," Ariel and the Police (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987), pp. 29-102, here 96-99; E. M. Henning, "Archaeology, Deconstruction, and Intellectual History," in Dominick LaCapra and Steven L. Kaplan, eds., Modem European Intellectual History (Ithaca: Cornell Uni­ versity Press, 1982), pp. 153-96, here 157-58,182-83; rod H. D. Harootunian, "Foucault, Genealogy, History: The Pursuit of Otherness," and Isaac D. Balbus, "Disciplining Women: Michel Foucault and the Power of Feminist Discourse," both in Jonathan Arac, ed., After Foucault: Humanistic Knowledge, Postmodern Challenges (New Brunswick, N.J. : Rutgers University Press, 1988), pp. 110 -37 ,138 -6 0 , esp. 116 -24 ,139 -4 0 . Cf. Donald M. Lowe's History of Bourgeois Perception (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), which is informed throughout by Foucault's method and sensibility: "The perceptual transformation from bourgeois society to the bureaucratic society of controlled consumption, during the decade of 1905-15, was as fundamental as that from the Renaissance to estate society in the early seven­

Notes to Pages 282-8$


teenth century, or that from estate society to bourgeois society in the last third of the eighteenth century. There is no continuity from one period to the next; each is a different world" (p. 109). Yet it seems to me that Foucault's position is more complicated than Lowe— or, for that matter, Harootunian, Balbus, and Rorty— would allow. "It is understandable," he wrote in The Archaeology of Knowledge, "that some minds are so attached to all those old metaphors by which, for a century and a half, history (movement, flux, innovation) has been imagined, that they see archaeology simply as the negation of history and the crude affirmation of discon­ tinuity" (p. 173). But note that he was defining the opposition, not designating his own principles, in describing these minds. At any rate, The Archaeology of Knowl­ edge does not so much dismiss continuity as demand that it be treated as a historical phenomenon. For example, "For archaeology, the identical and the continuous are not what must be found at the end of the analysis; . . . far from manifesting that fundamental, reassuring inertia which we like to use as a criterion of change, they are themselves actively, regularly formed" (p. 174). What James calls continuous transitions could be defined in these very terms, as "actively, regularly formed." We might then say that Foucault himself tried, not always successfully, to recuperate historical time, and that his followers have stopped trying. But this is pretty much what I said in chapter 9 about Lewis Mumford and his followers on the American Left, namely, by reverting to romanticism, they have reinstated modem subjec­ tivity and its attendant discontinuities. So 1am persuaded by Allan MegilTs claim that Foucault's work has romantic antecedents: see Allan Megill, Prophets of Ex­ tremity: Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, Derrida (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), chaps. 5-6. 33. See Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2d ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), esp. chaps. 5 ,10 ; cf. Rorty, Mirror, pp. 322-56. See also the helpful discussions of Kuhn and his critics in Richard Bernstein, Be­ yond Objectivism and Relativism: Science, Hermeneutics, and Praxis (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1983), part 2, pp. 52-108 and endnotes at 24047, and in Alasdair MacIntyre, "Epistemological Crises, Dramatic Narrative, and the Philosophy of Science," Monist 60 (1977): 453-72. 34. See Hannah Arendt, On Revolution (1963; reprint, New York: Penguin, 1977)), chaps. 4-5; MacIntyre, "Epistemological Crises," pp. 460-61; and Martin J. Sklar, The Corporate Reconstruction of American Capitalism, 1890-1916: The Mar­ ket, the Law, and Politics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 361. In my view, Ernesto Ladau and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (London: Verso, 1985), is important if only because it acknowledges that revolution is not the exclusive property or project of radicals on the Left. Cf. my "Radicals A ll!," Reviews in American History 16 (June 1988): 307-13. 35. Abraham Lincoln is quoted from "Speech at Peoria, Illinois," October 16, 1854, in Roy P. Basler, ed., Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 8 vols. (New Brunswick, N. J. : Rutgers University Press, 1953), 2:247-83, here 266. The Cooper Union speech of February 27, i860, in which Lincoln painstakingly demonstrates the continuity of the Declaration and the Constitution, is in Basler, Collected Works 3:522-50 . 1have made these arguments before, in "Politics, Ideology, and the Ori­ gins of American Revolutions," Socialist Revolution 36 (1977): 7-36, and in a talk


Notes to Pages 286-87

at a conference on "Free Soil and the Constitution" sponsored by Ripon College in September 1987. In this talk, "Revolutionary Politics in the Electoral Arena: The Constitutional Basis of Lincoln's Appeal," I argued that Lincoln's focus on "no extension"—on the territorial disposition of slavery—was not a paradox, not a de­ volution from the more principled stance of abolitionism, not merely a concession to a public opinion that valued constitutional procedure. Instead, I claim, the focus on "new countries" made a reenactment of the founding the immediate and practi­ cal issue in a way that abolitionism could not, for it returned the electorate to the past without replicating the past; it reinstated the image of new beginnings, the American Adam, but did not propose to escape from the past. So conceived, "no extension" was a trope that recalled, returned, reverted—it was not evasion but revision of the past. My talk at Ripon was invited by Kim Shankman, the political scientist who convened the conference and who deserves my thanks after all these years. But I would like to note that my ideas about Lincoln have been reshaped over the years by conversations with William Burr, Larry Lynn, Martin ). Sklar, Steve Rosswurm, Keith Haynes, Paul Wolman, and Don Shankman— all former members of the DeKalb Socialist Historians Group, with whom I was able to discuss Don E. Fehrenbacher, Prelude to Greatness: Lincoln in the 1850s (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1962), and Harry V. Jaffa, Crisis of the House Divided: An Inter­ pretation of the Issues in the Uncoln-Douglas Debates, 2d ed. (Garden City, N. Y. : Doubleday, 1959). I should also note that the new book by Garry Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America (New York: Simon Ac Schuster, 1992), came too late for me to use in writing this chapter. 36. Lincoln always insisted that what we would call "ideological struggle" was central to political innovation where popular government ruled. For example, in the first debate with Douglas on August 21,18 58 , at Ottawa, Illinois, he said: "In this and like communities, public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed. Consequently, he who molds pub­ lic sentiment, goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes statutes and decisions possible or impossible to be executed." This molding is precisely what Lincoln took to be his primary responsibility between 1854 and 1865. See Basler, Collected Works 3:12-30, here 27. On public opinion as the em­ bodiment of consent, which must serve as the principle of political obligation where the Declaration's commitment to human equality is honored, and on what follows for those who would change public opinion, see Jaffa, House Divided, chap. 17. 37. See MacIntyre, "Epistemological Crises," p. 466, and James, "A World of Pure Experience," pp. 23-24. 38. Michel Foucault, "Of Other Spaces," Diacritics 16 (1986): 22-27, here 22. On the inevitable resort to power in adjudicating differences between communities when incommensurability becomes the norm of discourse, see MacIntyre, "Rela­ tivism, Power, and Philosophy," pp. 200-202. But see also Foucault, "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History," esp. pp. 150-52, which I read as a meditation on this very theme of domination as the predicate of paradigm shifts; as the author puts it, "If interpretation is the violent or surreptitious appropriation of a system of rules, which in itself has no essential meaning, in order to impose a direction, to bend it to a new will, to force participation in a different game, and to subject it to sec­

Notes to Pages 288-89


ondary rules, then the development of humanity is a series of interpretations" (pp. 151-52). In light of Foucault's work, I believe it is worth asking whether the key differences between Nietzsche and James derive from their attitudes toward the logic and language of markets. There is no principle of equivalence in Nietzsche's work—all exchange is unequal, every transaction requires or produces an asymme­ try of power. This would not be worth remarking except that he claims that it was in "the sphere of legal obligations, that the moral conceptual world of 'guilt,' 'con­ science,' 'duty,' 'sacredness of duty' had its origin," and insists that this sphere of law, contract, and debt developed as the necessary corollary of "the oldest and most primitive personal relationship, that between buyer and seller, creditor and debtor: it was here that one person first encountered another person, that one person first measured himself against another." Indeed, Nietzsche goes on to claim, "Setting prices, determining values, contriving equivalences, exchanging—these preoccu­ pied the earliest thinking of man to so great an extent that in a certain sense they constitute thinking as such." So, once primitive societies had "arrived at the great generalization, 'everything has its price; all things can be paid for'—the oldest and naivest moral canon of justice," they had fallen from the innocence of domination and moved toward the position that justice required "good will among parties of approximately equal power." (From F. W. Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, trans. Walter Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale [New York: Vintage, 1967], pp. 65, 70, italics in original.) By this accounting—it is not incidentally a parody of Hegel's Philosophy of Right—the "second innocence" (Unschuld) impending in the decline of faith would be realized when all debts were canceled and all markets adjourned, when das Schuldgefühl, "the guilty feeling of indebtedness," as Kaufmann translates it, would dissolve because money and markets would not serve as the organizing principles of thought (ibid., pp. 90-91); the conscience-stricken human animal would then revert to domination as the natural form of social intercourse. 39. James, "A World of Pure Experience," pp. 42, 23-27 (references in the text hereafter). 40. Cf. Rorty, Mirror, p. 382: "The notion that we can get around overconfident philosophical realism and positivistic reductions only by adopting something like Kant's transcendental standpoint seems to me the basic mistake in programs like that of Habermas. . . . What is required to accomplish these laudable purposes is not Kant's 'epistemological' distinction between the transcendental and the empiri­ cal standpoints, but rather his 'existential' distinction between people as empirical selves and as moral agents." In a later essay, "The Priority of Democracy to Phi­ losophy" (1988), reprinted in Rorty, Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth, pp. 175-96, Rorty suggests, however, that such an existential distinction is pointless because the effect of twentieth-century intellectual innovation "is to erase the picture of the self common to Greek metaphysics, Christian theology, and Enlightenment ratio­ nalism." He goes on to claim that we do not need this "model of the human self"; or rather we do not need "the idea that the human self has a center (a divine spark, or a truth-tracking faculty called 'reason') and that argumentation will, given time and patience, penetrate to this center" (pp. 176 ,19 2,18 8 ). He proposes an alter­ native— "a notion of the human self as a centerless web of historically conditioned beliefs and desires"—but discounts its importance. "If one wants a model of the


Notes to Pages 290-94

human self, then this picture of a centerless web will fill the need. But for purposes of liberal social theory, one can do without such a model. One can get along with common sense and social science, areas of discourse in which the term 'the self' rarely occurs" (p. 192). I cannot agree with Rorty in this instance because I agree with him on the priority of democracy to philosophy. I have tried to show, in chap­ ters 8-10, that arguments about the nature of the self and the moral personality are in effect arguments about the meaning and scope of democracy. I would now insist that these arguments are the vernacular in which we discuss and determine the changing relation between public and private spheres of modem life—which is to say that they compose the common sense we need to develop social theory and social science. If "we heirs of the Enlightenment for whom justice has become the first virtue" (p. 182) begin by assuming that beliefs about the needs and capacities of human beings set the limits of public policy and establish the purposes of political deliberation, how can we detach politics from a model of, or debate about, the self? If we derive our sense of justice from our ideas about what each of us deserves, or legitimately desires, why would we want to detach them? If effected, would not that detachment end the evolution of our sense of justice by making new ideas about selfhood— new beliefs about the needs and capacities of human beings— irrelevant to public policy and political deliberation? My point is not that we must have a self with a suprahistorical center, but that we need models of and arguments about the self if we are to have political debate in which justice figures as the "first virtue." In other words, if Rorty is correct about the effect of twentieth-century intellec­ tual innovation, the model of the self contained in the essays on radical empiricism becomes indispensable to the political debates we want to have.

Note to Page 294



Abramovitz, Moses, 15 Accumulation, general law of, 6-13; Marxian model o l 5-6,13-20; as moment of industrialization, 8-9, 22 Adams, Henry, 175 Addams, Jane, 177 Adomo, Theodor, 323 (n. 40) Agnew, Jean-Christophe, 65,150 Alexander, Magnus, 105 American Federation of Labor, 97 Arendt, Hannah, 125 Arndt, H. W., 116 Augustine, Saint, 218-19 Automation, 104-5 Balzac, Honoré de, 152-53 Barthes, Roland, 132,342-43 (n. 3) Baudrillard, Jean, 349 (n. 40) Bell Daniel, 125,298 (n. 18) Bellamy, Edward, 148,349 (n. 40) Bergson, Henri, 231-36 Berle, Adolf A., Jr., 100,175 Bernstein, Michael, 10 7 ,112 -14 Bierstadt, Robert, 125 Blake, Casey, 228-30 Bloom, Harold, 133,144 Bourne, Randolph, 130,225, 227,361 (n. 22), 370 (n. 1) Brooks, Van Wyck, 68,76-77,130, 225-27, 234-35 Burke; Kenneth, xvii-xix, 278,321 (n. 31), 325 (n. 41), 376 (n. 34) Burnham, James, 100 Butler, Judith, 322 (n. 34) Capitalism, corporate, 60-62,66-74, 84-118

Capital-output ratios, 11,10 6 ,17 9 Carey, Henry G , 33,309 (n. 26) Carlyle, Thomas, 231, 233 Chandler, Alfred D., Jr., 28,175 Chase, Stuart, 10 7 ,111,117 - 18 Cisco, John J., 37 Civil War, 31-40 Clark, Evans, 109-10 Clark, John Bates, 43,53-59, 94 Class: as principle of social organization, 77-80,173-78,353 (*»• 12) Class conflict, 86-97 Clews, Henry, 37 Cohen, Lester, 140 Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, 233 Commons, John R., 58 Conant, Charles A., 51 Consumer culture, periodization of, 21-23,4 8-49 ,6 2-77,110 -12,117-18, 172- 73,348 (n. 34) Consumption, mass, 49~53,112 -17 Continental industrialization, 31-4 1 Cooke, Jay, 37 Coolidge, Mary Roberts Smith, 68 Coontz, Sydney, 5 ,15 Corey, Lewis, 107 Cott, Nancy, 78 Credit economy, 146-49,181-95, 208-9 Davidson, Donald, 256-63, 279, 283 Depression, Great, 112 -17 Derrida, Jacques, 347 (n. 27) Descartes, René, 236 Devine, Edward, 71,364 (n. 41) Dewey, John, 64,80,82,159,172, 187-200, 209-10, 225-29, 246, 253, 257-59» 281


Disaccumulation of capital, 20-23 Domar, Evsey, 12, 24 Douglas, Ann, 150 Dreiser, Theodore, 4,132-33,139-42, 14 4 -4 6 ,151,153,155-57 Du Bois, W.E.B., 177,354 (n. 13) Durkheim, Émile, 225,371 (n. 2) Ely, Richard, 58 Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 4,133,170 , 201-4, *47-5°' *54-55» *63,362 (n- 29), 376 (n. 37) Empiricism, 269-72 Femininity, imaginary, 322 (n. 34) Feminism, 70-71, 74-78, 381 (n. 24) Fichte, Johann G., 374 (n. 15) Fiedler, Leslie, 155 Fine, Sidney, 129 Fisher, Irving, 58 Flint, Charles R., 92 Ford, Franklin, 187,189 Foucault, Michel, 289-91,383 (n. 32) Fox, Richard W, 62-65 Frank, Waldo, 241 Fraser, Nancy, 382 (n. 29) Freeholder, figure of, 221-23, 278-79 Frey, John, 88, 94-95 Frye, Northrop, 138-39 Gage, Lyman, 46 Gallman, Robert, 39-40 Gender: as principle of social organiza­ tion, 78-80 George, Henry, 189 Gerth, Hans H., 125 Giddings, Franklin, 58 Gilmore, Michael T, 376 (n. 37) Goodwyn, Lawrence, 130 Gordon, Robert, 108 Greeley, Horace, 33 Gutman, Herbert, 130 Hadley, Arthur T., 60,183 Hansen, Alvin, 19 Harrington, James, 175 Harrod, Roy, 11- 12 Haskell, Thomas, 129,350 (n. 44)


Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 143-45 Hegel G.W.F., 154-55» *88,191-92, 219-21, 284-85,363 (n. 35), 378 (n. 3) Hill, James J., 91 Hirschman, A. O., 8 ,11 Historirism, literary, 132,156-57,342 (n. 3); political, 274-79, 284-88 Hoffmann, W. G., 11- 12 Hofstadter, Richard, 125 Hollander, J. H., 57-59 Hopkins, Harry, 118 Horwitz, Howard, 349 (n. 40), 362 (n. 31) Household economy, 24-31 Howells, William Dean, 133-37,163 Hoxie, Robert, 94 Hughes, H. Stuart, 123-24 Hume, David, 269, 290,292 Investment: economic growth and, 12-17, **-*3» 39-40» 10 5-17,179 Irigaray, Luce, 322 (n. 34) Irony, historiographical, 80-83 James, Henry, 47-48 James, William, 68, 70-71,80,130-31, 142,158-72,180,190-92,199-201, 207-14, 223-31, 253, 256-60, 26373»*75»*79»*88-94 Jameson, Fredric, 138-41 Jenks, Jeremiah, 61,91 Jung, Carl, 232 Kalecki, Michal 5 ,11- 12 Kant, Immanuel, 137,154, 206-7, 219-21,263-65, 269, 290-91, 294, 363 (n. 33) Kasson, John, 130 Kazin, Alfred, 155 Kelley, Florence, 177 Kelley, William D., 33 Keynes, John Maynard, 3 ,11-12 ,10 6 -7 King, W. L. Mackenzie, 94 Kloppenberg, James T, 129,339 (n. 9) Knights of Labor, 96,176-77,182 Kuhn, Thomas, 125, 286 Kuklick, Bruce, 129 Kuznets, Simon, 39


Labor theory of value, 6,18-23,48-49, 53-55» 300 (n. 23), 316 (n. 4) Lacan, Jacques, 322 (n. 34) Ladau, Ernesto, 300 (n. 23) Lasch, Christopher, 130,319 (n. 17), 369 ("• 57)» 376 (n. 37) Lawrence, D. H., 133 Lears, T. J. Jackson, 62-65,323-24 (n. 40), 376 (n. 34) Leiss, William, 150,350 (n. 44) Leontiei Wassily, 11- 12 Lewis, W. Arthur, 5,8 Lincoln, Abraham, 32-33,287-88,384 (n. 35), 385 (n. 36) Lippmann, Walter, 69-75,10°» *77- 7® Lloyd, Henry Demarest, 187,189 Long, Clarence D., 85-86 Lukics, Georg, 63 Luther, Martin, 218-19

270-72,277-79,365 (n. 42). See also Romanticism Molesworth, Charles, 230 Monetary regimes, 147-48 Money: as epistemological metaphor, 48-49,146-49,152-55,184-87, 192-95,199-200,207-9. See also Credit economy Moral personality, construction o£ 21524,274-75, 292-94,369 (n. 56) Morishima, Michio, 5, 296 (n. 9) Mouffe, Chantal, 300 (n. 23) Mumford, Lewis, 118, 200,224-47, 250-55» 278-79 Murad, Anatol, 5

MacIntyre, Alasdair, 262, 280 MacLeish, Archibald, 107 Macpherson, C. B., 65,368 (n. 55), 369 (n. 56) Madison, James, 183, 276-77 Marginalist economics, 49-62, 77-78 Markets, Julian, 139-40 Marsh, Alec, 3,361 (n. 24) Marshall, Alfred, 59 Marx, Karl, 5-20,79,146,175,179-80 Marx, Leo, 230 May, Henry F., 123-24 Mead, George Herbert, 80,323 (n. 38) Means, Gardiner, 100,175 Meek, Ronald, 50 Melville, Herman, 143-45, 237-41 Mental labor, 43-45,53-54» 88 Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, 347 (n. 27) Merton, Robert, 125 Michaels, Walter Benn, 140,145, 156-57 Mill, James, 10 Mills, C. Wright, 125 Mitchell, Juliet, 322 (n. 34) Mitchell, Wesley G , 68,107 Modernism, 49, 223, 255 Modem subjectivity, 66,69-74, 214, 219-21, 235-36,240, 246, 256-61,

Olney, Martha, 112 -13 Ortega y Gasset, José, xix


Naturalism, literary, 134-38,343 (n. 4) Nietzsche, Friedrich, 385 (n. 38) Norris, Frank, 200,344 (n. 4)

Parsons, Talcott, 125 Patten, Simon, 67-70,319 (n. 20), 364 (n.41) Peirce, Charles S., 207-8, 221 Peiss, Kathy, 130 Perkins, Frances, 118 Petrey, Sandy, 155 Phelps, Edmund S., 111,17 8 Pocock, J.G.A., 65,148,273-78,380-81 (nn. 18,19) Poe, Edgar Allan, 235 Poeisis, 252-54,377 (n. 39) Poirier, Richard, 362 (n. 29), 376 (n. 37) Populism, 65-67,176-77 Positivism, 214, 223, 272 Postmodernism, 214-15, 256-57, 278-79 Pragmatism, xv-xvi, 82,199-201, 208-10, 214-15, 221-32,235, 242, 256-60, 273-75, 278-79 Productive labor, 33,43-45,95-97, 166-72,181-83 Property: rights of, 59-60, 72,100,183; personality and, 72-74, 221-23 Protestantism, 218-20 Putnam, Hilary, 279


Radical empiricism, 263-73 Reed, John, 177 Reification, 63-64 Relativism, 279-90 Republicanism, 45, 273-77,31 1 (n- 37) Revolution: cultural-intellectual, 123-31, 158; social, 286-88 Ricardo, David, 10 Robinson, Joan, 11-12 Romance: as narrative formt 134, 13844,157,160-63 Romanticism, 148, 214, 223; young intel­ lectuals and, 229-36, 239-47, 254-55; William James and, 272,372 (n. 5) Rorty, Richard, 200,279-92,382 (n. 29), 386 (n. 40) Rose, Jacqueline, 322 (n. 34) Rosenzweig, Roy, 130 Rostow, Walt W, 8 ,15 -16 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 219 Russell, Bertrand, 225,371 (n. 2) Santayana, George, 129-30 Schelling, F.W.J., 233-35 Schumpeter, Joseph A., 10 1,10 7 Seligman, E.R.A., 58 Shell, Marc, 146 Sklar, Martin J., 5, 20,99,175 Smith, Adam, 10 Smith-Rosenberg, Carroll, 130 Socialism, 75-76, 212, 274-79, 339 (n. 9), 380 (n. 19) Social seit 50,66,72-75,80-82,18384, 278,313 (n. 46), 323 (n. 38), 357 (n.6) Sorel Georges, 232 Soule, George; 107 Spengler, Oswald, 231 Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, 300 (n. 23)

Steams, Harold, 225-27 Stevenson, Robert Louis, 163 Surplus, age ot 66-77 Taft, Jessie, 177,323 (n. 38) Taylor, Charles* 280 Taylor, Frederick W, 93-94 Temin, Peter, 11,10 2 Tolstoy, Leo, 136,163 Toynbee, Arnold, 231 Transition period (1400-1800), 196-99 Transition question, 99-101,175-80, 355 (n. 17) Tsuru, Shigeto, 12 Tugwell, Rexford G., 10 1,117 -18 , 331 (n. 30), 337 (n. 56) Unger, Roberto M., 98,127,329 (n. 24) Vanderlip, Frank A., 90,93 Veblen, Thorstein, 59,118,196 Walcutt, Charles Child, 343 (n. 4) Walker, Francis A., 57-59 Wallace, Henry A., 118 Weaver, James B., 177 Weintraub, David, 107,331 (n. 31) Wells, David A., 51,85-86 West, Comet 354 (n. 13), 362 (n. 29), 37* (“ • 5) Westbrook, Robert, 228-29,372 (n- 5) Weyl, Walter E., 365 (n. 41) White; Morton, 123-24 Whitehead, Alfred North, 230, 236, 258 Whitman, Walt, 4 ,76 ,133,137,14 3, 168-72, 200-201, 204-7,241 Williams* William A., 175 Wilshiie, Bruce, 345 (n. 16) Wilson, Edmund, 118 Wright, Carroll D., 45